City Manager Derek K. Allen’s request for some changes to his employment contract set off a discussion that went on for several minutes at Monday’s Portsmouth City Council meeting. Allen said, with the current status being that employees under his supervision are not receiving raises or bonuses, he didn’t feel it was fair for him to ask for an increase.
Instead, Allen brought a proposal to the table that would allow City Council to provide him with a $250,000 life insurance policy, five weeks of vacation, an increase of $50 in his vehicle allowance and the payment of dues to the various city manager professional organizations.
“For two years our city manager has received much better than average reviews,” First Ward Councilman Kevin W. Johnson said. “Bottom line our city manager has done a damn good job for us.” Johnson then proposed bringing the proposal forward in its current form at the next City Council meeting.
“I just know that we have employees that have not had raises or any kind of benefits increase since 2009,” Third Ward Councilman Kevin E. Johnson said. “And not to say that you (Allen) haven’t done a very good job but I don’t know how we sit in here, and this is adding benefits – it’s vacation time – I don’t know how we justify doing that when we’ve got city employees that we can’t right now afford to give a raise to.”
Kevin E. Johnson said he would rather wait until the tax increase takes effect to see how finances are then before giving Allen what he requested.
“I just want to commend Councilman (Kevin E.) Johnson for standing up and making his comments,” Fifth Ward Councilman Gene Meadows said. “I agree with him. The ICMA conference we paid for when asked for and we never said no because of other issues that are contractual. My problem is, if we can’t afford to increase the employees then we shouldn’t be increasing anybody. The employees should come first.”
Second Ward Councilman Rich Saddler disagreed.
“Our employee (Allen) is not equal with his employees,” Saddler said. “So if we’re wanting to make things equal I think we should give him this extra time.”
Kevin W. Johnson said he did not believe the city employees would begrudge his receiving the extra benefits, given the amount of time Allen puts in on the job. Johnson then said he has concern for all employees’ health and welfare and that goes for Allen as well, mentioning the long days and evenings he said Allen puts in his office.
“I don’t look at this gentleman as an employee. He is our right arm as far as running the city even though by legal terms he is out employee,” Kevin W. Johnson said. “I do not begrudge anything that is recommended in here.”
Johnson said Allen needs more time off because he does not want to see him “worn out.”
“I’m just going to try to take some more time away,” Allen said. “I am exhausted.”
“It depends on what your goal is,” City Solicitor John Haas told Council. “If your goal is to find another city manager, that’s one thing. If your goal is to keep the one we have and keep him happy, that’s the alternative. I don’t know that any employee would begrudge what he has asked for because they’re here every day and they know how much he works. They know how much he’s here.”
In the end, Council chose to bring the proposal forward but with one less week of vacation than requested
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.
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