Passing the bucks

City manager gives pay raises to department heads, acknowledges weird timing

Gus Vina says “there’s never a good time” for raises.

Gus Vina says “there’s never a good time” for raises.


Interim City Manager Gus Vina last week awarded pay increases to three high-level department heads. The raises have ruffled some feathers on the city council, considering that there aren’t a lot of Sacramentans getting raises right now, and considering that lots of city employees have been asked to forgo raises and/or give up their jobs for the last few years.

Leyne Milstein, the city’s director of finance, got the biggest raise. Vina bumped her up because she was previously the lowest paid of the city’s department heads. Average pay for city department heads is $167,284. Milstein was making $131,270; she’ll now be earning $150,304—still a bit below the average.

Max Fernandez, head of the Community Development Department, and Geri Hamby, head of Human Resources, also got raises. Fernandez is moving from $164,445 to $172,667, while Hamby is getting a bump from $151,402 to $162,000.

Vina justified both Fernandez and Hamby’s raises because their departments have been consolidated with other departments and, the logic goes, each now has more responsibility.

Fernandez was head of the Code Enforcement Department. As part of budget cuts last year, his agency was consolidated with the Community Development Department. When asked if Fernandez was really working that much harder, Vina said, “His life is nothing like what it used to be at Code.”

Likewise, Hamby recently added director of labor relations to her job description, which includes negotiating with all the city’s public-employee unions. That’s probably not fun.

As head of the Human Resources Department, Hamby is also the person responsible for recruiting and hiring. And the city is in the process of hiring a permanent city manager. Vina has been clear that he wants that job. Asked if this was a potential conflict of interest, Vina said he’s “absolutely confident” there’s none, because the city manager search is being handled by an outside agency, and Hamby has little direct role in the search. Ultimately, it’s the city council who will vote to hire the next city manager, not Hamby.

Vina acknowledged that “there’s never a good time” for raises. “But I looked at our salaries and I saw there were some inequities to address.” He added, “I absolutely know this is the right thing to do.”

“Not a good time” may be an understatement, as the city’s budget crisis grinds into its fourth year. Sacramento is facing a $35 million to $40 million shortfall this year, which translates to about 400 job cuts.

Last year, when City Councilwoman Bonnie Pannell suggested that City Attorney Eileen Teichert and City Clerk Shirley Concolino (who make $189,000 and $128,000 a year respectively) should receive pay raises, she was criticized in the press.

The Sacramento Bee editorial board even called Pannell’s suggestion “stunningly tone deaf.”

No word yet how any of this will affect the “Gus Vina for Sacramento City Manager” fan page on Facebook.