Buckley administrator gets better deal

Tensions rose in Buckley City Council chambers Dec. 8, as councilmembers discussed an addendum to the city administrator’s contract.

The addendum was written to extend the length of the administrator’s contract by a year, as well as extend certain benefits “to induce (him) to serve in such position, enhance work productivity by protecting (his) morale and peace of mind, and provide a fair method of terminating (his) services in a professional and businesslike manner,” according to the language of the bill.

Council passed the agenda bill by a margin of 4-2-1. Randy Reed and James Montgomery voted against the bill, with Mark McNally abstaining from the vote. The three voted for an amendment in November to eliminate the city administrator’s salary from the 2010 budget.

Benefits extended by the bill include an increase on the paid benefits premium going into Schmidt’s retirement account from 80 to 100 percent, a removal of the limit of vacation time he can accrue and an increase on his severance pay from three months to five months for termination without cause.

“It’s a generous offer, perhaps over generous,” Montgomery said. “If the city feels this strongly about keeping someone, I’m not sure the benefits for not being in the position should look so good.

“I think the committee should take another look at this.”

As council entered discussion on the issue, Schmidt pointed out that they would need to go into executive session and ask him to leave the room if they were going to discuss his performance. Council did not go into executive session.

Despite this, a point brought up on both sides of the issue was that Schmidt had effectively taken on three jobs: his official role as city administrator and unofficial roles as public works administrator and city planner.

Council members praised him for taking on the roles, but McNally punctuated his praise with a point that Schmidt has delegated some of those extra duties, and therefore increasing compensation on the basis of his taking on those roles was no longer immediately relevant.

“I’m just going to interrupt you for a second, but I just want to let you know if you keep talking performance you’re this close to a lawsuit,” Schmidt said.

Mayor Pat Johnson interrupted to relate what she saw as the necessity of Schmidt’s role.

“The reason we have a city administrator is because the running of the city has become so complicated,” she said. “He has taken on more responsibility as given to him.”

McNally gave a brief public apology. But Montgomery repeated his concerns.

“Here in Buckley, we’re talking about money problems, we’re laying off staff and now we’re essentially giving bonuses at the end of the year,” he said.

Councilwoman Cristi Boyle-Barrett disagreed. The addendum and its amendments were just a par for a contract renewal on one of their dedicated employees, she said.

In other action, the council:

• watched as incumbents Mayor Pat Johnson and council members Boyle-Barrett, Reed, Melissa Patson and McNally were sworn in. New Council member Doug Harple was also sworn in.

• approved an ordinance amending the 2009 budget to account for unforeseen changes in the revenues and expenditures of fire construction, storm water, cemeteries, railroads and solid waste.

• approved an ordinance making changes to the zoning designations of the city’s Future Land Use Map.

• adopted a resolution adjusting fees for operations and utilities on the 2010 budget. Fees on cemetery operations, stormwater and sewer service were all increased by 3 percent. Solid waste was increased 6.5 percent and natural gas was reduced by 3 percent.

• approved an interlocal agreement allowing Buckley to use Bonney Lake’s planning services, including GIS, for on-call services to Buckley.

• approved a $48,913 proposal by an engineering firm to update Buckley’s Shoreline Master Program to comply with new provisions adopted by the Legislature.

• approved “scope of work” addendums on the proposed fire station site and and the realignment project at the junction of state Route 410, state Route 165 and Ryan Road.

• rejected a bid to replace the city’s master meter, in favor of finding a better price.

• approved a $200 per month lease agreement with the Women’s, Infants and Children’s program to use Buckley Hall.

• extended its agreement with Cascade Land Conservancy to represent the city in negotiation for purchase of the White River property.

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