News

Pleasanton: City manager receives 12% raise, city attorney gets 8%

Council: Increases overdue, both men remain below Tri-Valley average

Pleasanton City Manager Nelson Fialho earned a 12% salary increase and city attorney Daniel Sodergren took in an 8% raise on Tuesday, with the City Council citing glowing performance reviews and a need to bring both employees' pay closer to market averages.

Fialho, who has led the city government in his position for the past 15 years, will now receive an annual salary to $255,452. Sodergren, who was hired in May 2016, now has an annual salary of $226,800.

No other changes to their compensations or benefits were proposed.

The council members unanimously approved the recommended salary adjustments for both men at the end of Tuesday night's regular meeting, after Councilwoman Julie Testa requested the items be pulled from the consent calendar for full public discussion.

"I think everyone agrees that our city manager does an outstanding job. I think everyone is in agreement that a correction to his salary is appropriate," Testa said, also expressing support for the city attorney's raise. "But when we're talking an unexpected salary increase, I think it's really important that it not be a consent calendar issue ... that we have the full explanation for the public."

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Mayor Jerry Thorne, in his written staff reports before the meeting, commended Fialho and Sodergren for accomplishments on the job and pointed out that neither has received a pay raise in over two years.

In the city manager's case, he voluntarily passed on raises in prior years during and after the recession to help ensure the city's fiscal stability, according to Thorne. As a result, his salary level has been the lowest for city managers in the Tri-Valley, and pay increases for all other Pleasanton city employee groups have outpaced Fialho's, including top-tier management positions directly below him.

"While the recommended salary will not attain the market average, it will position the city manager's salary closer to the average market and alleviate internal compaction," the mayor wrote.

Neither Fialho nor Sodergren received a performance evaluation or new compensation consideration last year -- which Thorne called "an oversight" by the council. The council completed their reviews in July and advanced the proposed salary increases from closed-session.

The mayor noted that Fialho and Sodergren each still remain below the market average in the area for their positions even after the new raises.

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The council heard public comment from two speakers Tuesday, both in support of the raises and both with ties to the city government.

"The talent is definitely here, and they bring it every day," said Jack Balch, a member of the city's Planning Commission and a business owner and employer in Pleasanton

"While (the raises) might be a little larger than some people would expect it, 3% or 4% maybe being something we would generally see, the nuance of that is that it would cost the city much greater to replace these two fine gentlemen," Balch added.

Former councilman Arne Olson commended Fialho for his performance, saying the city manager operates more like an effective CEO.

"His job is very complex, a lot of moving parts," Olson said of Fialho. "I felt this way when I was on the council, and I still believe it: His pay is below where it should be."

The council discussed the raises for about 20 minutes, including a staff presentation, before voting 5-0 in favor of both. Fialho and Sodergren were not present during the conversation, leaving the room for that part of the meeting.

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Pleasanton: City manager receives 12% raise, city attorney gets 8%

Council: Increases overdue, both men remain below Tri-Valley average

by / Pleasanton Weekly

Uploaded: Thu, Aug 22, 2019, 4:53 pm

Pleasanton City Manager Nelson Fialho earned a 12% salary increase and city attorney Daniel Sodergren took in an 8% raise on Tuesday, with the City Council citing glowing performance reviews and a need to bring both employees' pay closer to market averages.

Fialho, who has led the city government in his position for the past 15 years, will now receive an annual salary to $255,452. Sodergren, who was hired in May 2016, now has an annual salary of $226,800.

No other changes to their compensations or benefits were proposed.

The council members unanimously approved the recommended salary adjustments for both men at the end of Tuesday night's regular meeting, after Councilwoman Julie Testa requested the items be pulled from the consent calendar for full public discussion.

"I think everyone agrees that our city manager does an outstanding job. I think everyone is in agreement that a correction to his salary is appropriate," Testa said, also expressing support for the city attorney's raise. "But when we're talking an unexpected salary increase, I think it's really important that it not be a consent calendar issue ... that we have the full explanation for the public."

Mayor Jerry Thorne, in his written staff reports before the meeting, commended Fialho and Sodergren for accomplishments on the job and pointed out that neither has received a pay raise in over two years.

In the city manager's case, he voluntarily passed on raises in prior years during and after the recession to help ensure the city's fiscal stability, according to Thorne. As a result, his salary level has been the lowest for city managers in the Tri-Valley, and pay increases for all other Pleasanton city employee groups have outpaced Fialho's, including top-tier management positions directly below him.

"While the recommended salary will not attain the market average, it will position the city manager's salary closer to the average market and alleviate internal compaction," the mayor wrote.

Neither Fialho nor Sodergren received a performance evaluation or new compensation consideration last year -- which Thorne called "an oversight" by the council. The council completed their reviews in July and advanced the proposed salary increases from closed-session.

The mayor noted that Fialho and Sodergren each still remain below the market average in the area for their positions even after the new raises.

The council heard public comment from two speakers Tuesday, both in support of the raises and both with ties to the city government.

"The talent is definitely here, and they bring it every day," said Jack Balch, a member of the city's Planning Commission and a business owner and employer in Pleasanton

"While (the raises) might be a little larger than some people would expect it, 3% or 4% maybe being something we would generally see, the nuance of that is that it would cost the city much greater to replace these two fine gentlemen," Balch added.

Former councilman Arne Olson commended Fialho for his performance, saying the city manager operates more like an effective CEO.

"His job is very complex, a lot of moving parts," Olson said of Fialho. "I felt this way when I was on the council, and I still believe it: His pay is below where it should be."

The council discussed the raises for about 20 minutes, including a staff presentation, before voting 5-0 in favor of both. Fialho and Sodergren were not present during the conversation, leaving the room for that part of the meeting.

Comments

Michael Austin
Pleasanton Meadows
on Aug 22, 2019 at 7:52 pm
Michael Austin, Pleasanton Meadows
on Aug 22, 2019 at 7:52 pm
10 people like this

Nelson Fialho is under paid with the $255,452.


Andy
Bridle Creek
on Aug 23, 2019 at 11:19 am
Andy, Bridle Creek
on Aug 23, 2019 at 11:19 am
8 people like this

Ths is WAY TOO MUCH money for these guys. How many residents living in Pleasanton received that much %ge raise last year or year before that or even in last 5 years in their job. SHAME on Pleasanton! Pleasanton people will react negatively to this news. We need to do something. This is the reason everything is getting expenses in pleasanton.


Ridgerunner
Pleasanton Heights
on Aug 23, 2019 at 12:49 pm
Ridgerunner , Pleasanton Heights
on Aug 23, 2019 at 12:49 pm
4 people like this

Vote the city council out of office


Kathleen Ruegsegger
Registered user
Vintage Hills
on Aug 23, 2019 at 1:34 pm
Kathleen Ruegsegger, Vintage Hills
Registered user
on Aug 23, 2019 at 1:34 pm
18 people like this

From this story: “In the city manager's case, he voluntarily passed on raises in prior years during and after the recession to help ensure the city's fiscal stability, according to Thorne. As a result, his salary level has been the lowest for city managers in the Tri-Valley, and pay increases for all other Pleasanton city employee groups have outpaced Fialho's, including top-tier management positions directly below him.” I’m not sure if it is fair to forego raises and then not hope to catch up later. However, these gentlemen are paid below neighboring cities, and I believe even the superintendent of our schools—$298,225 Web Link We certainly can debate whether we are paying these people too much in general.

You can find what any civil servant is making at this website: transparentcalifornia.com. Here is the link to the city’s employees: Web Link The data comes directly from the entities. Pension liabilities, I believe, may be a general estimate.


James Michael
Registered user
Val Vista
on Aug 23, 2019 at 8:37 pm
James Michael, Val Vista
Registered user
on Aug 23, 2019 at 8:37 pm
9 people like this

I don't see a problem with raises in salary or wages for employees that are doing the job. The problem is the 3% at 50 retirement that Gov. Davis stuck us with all those years ago.


Pleasanton Parent
Pleasanton Meadows
on Aug 23, 2019 at 9:33 pm
Pleasanton Parent , Pleasanton Meadows
on Aug 23, 2019 at 9:33 pm
3 people like this

I dont get why pensions get col and bonus increases. Or why we baseline pension payments based on the last yrs salary.

Taxpayers getting raped


James Michael
Registered user
Val Vista
on Aug 24, 2019 at 10:15 am
James Michael, Val Vista
Registered user
on Aug 24, 2019 at 10:15 am
6 people like this

No, it's not rape if the taxpayers give their consent. And that's exactly what they do each time they keep voting for the same party that started this madness.


Grumpy
Registered user
Vineyard Avenue
on Aug 24, 2019 at 3:02 pm
Grumpy, Vineyard Avenue
Registered user
on Aug 24, 2019 at 3:02 pm
15 people like this

Wait, what's wrong with giving them raises? They're still paid way below market?

Or is it that you just don't think that the government should pay anyone who works for them? Because if that's what you think, that would be appropriate for a communist dictatorship and not a thriving capitalistic democracy.

This is America. We pay our employees so they don't leave to work for private industry. Get used to it.


Pleasanton Parent
Pleasanton Meadows
on Aug 24, 2019 at 10:43 pm
Pleasanton Parent , Pleasanton Meadows
on Aug 24, 2019 at 10:43 pm
6 people like this

Grumpy,
When schools are fundraising stating they cant pay for basic functions, then turnaround and give raises.....its a slap in the face


carlos
Highland Oaks
on Aug 26, 2019 at 10:55 am
carlos, Highland Oaks
on Aug 26, 2019 at 10:55 am
2 people like this

If the city manager manages the city, what does the mayor do?


Kathleen Ruegsegger
Registered user
Vintage Hills
on Aug 26, 2019 at 11:23 am
Kathleen Ruegsegger, Vintage Hills
Registered user
on Aug 26, 2019 at 11:23 am
6 people like this

Mayor is an elected position and part of the City Council (four additional members). The primary role is to oversee the City Manager and the City Attorney, set policy, and oversee the budget. You can look at agendas to see the variety of issues requiring City Council approval. I do not believe the mayor has any more authority than any individual council member. They act together as one body and votes are by majority. The idea is that the council represents community members so we have a say in what happens in our town. My contention is that city staff leads the council in the direction they wish to go. If we don’t have people on the council asking tougher questions and for deeper reporting from staff—or without feedback (positive or negative) at meetings or phone calls or email—we end up with what staff wants. Example: the push for a $200MM new city center on Bernal property and without much consideration of a joint location with the school district. It’s often the same with our elected school board members.

Did anyone consider keeping and expanding the current library, updating the police department where it is, moving the city offices and district/Village HS into new facilities on the district site? Currently, both those locations (other than the library) are eyesores.


Grumpy
Registered user
Vineyard Avenue
on Aug 26, 2019 at 12:20 pm
Grumpy, Vineyard Avenue
Registered user
on Aug 26, 2019 at 12:20 pm
1 person likes this

PP, I know you know that the school district is different from the city. And I'm likely to agree with you that the school district hiring has been a mess.

But the city seems to be doing pretty well, and in the places it isn't, losing staff for lack of pay won't help.

Kathleen, I agree that the whole move makes little sense. Isn't this going to be resolved by ballot though? I don't know the state of talks on collocation.


Kathleen Ruegsegger
Registered user
Vintage Hills
on Aug 26, 2019 at 2:26 pm
Kathleen Ruegsegger, Vintage Hills
Registered user
on Aug 26, 2019 at 2:26 pm
1 person likes this

I believe there has to be a vote; don’t see it going in favor of Bernal plan. I think co-location is DOA. In reality, neither side has the funds and the city has no interest. Last I heard, the city is pursuing one plan—Bernal.


Diane B.
Registered user
Foothill High School
on Aug 26, 2019 at 4:35 pm
Diane B., Foothill High School
Registered user
on Aug 26, 2019 at 4:35 pm
1 person likes this

These gentlemen are doing fantastic jobs and we need to pay them what they deserve. I retired from the corporate world and in order to retain the best, they need to be compensated! All of us love our P-Town, well let’s give credit to our chief executives that make it a wonderful place to live!!!


Frankie
Registered user
Alisal Elementary School
on Aug 26, 2019 at 11:41 pm
Frankie, Alisal Elementary School
Registered user
on Aug 26, 2019 at 11:41 pm
1 person likes this

I don’t think the salaries are out of line. However, it is the benefits that are difficult to swallow. Historically, government employees made less money than the private section but were provided job security, generous medical/dental coverage, vacation and sick time, and early paid retirement with the pension based on the years of employment and a lucrative calculation formula established by self-serving Cal PERS agency. Now, the salaries are at par with the private sector AND the benefits have continued to increase due to labor unions. So the total compensation packages are astounding and often superior to the private sector. It is hurting all cities and new State regulations have been trying to reform the excesses.


Pro-Law
another community
on Aug 27, 2019 at 12:52 am
Pro-Law, another community
on Aug 27, 2019 at 12:52 am
6 people like this

I don't have an opinion on these particular raises, however - I always chuckle and wonder when I see the complaints: If the pay and benefits are so good that one thinks they are overpaid, then why don't the people complaining about it put in for these government jobs?


Finance Guy
another community
on Sep 7, 2019 at 9:36 pm
Finance Guy, another community
on Sep 7, 2019 at 9:36 pm
3 people like this

In response to pro-law and others, I agree with you mostly. I also don’t really have an opinion on this particular set of pay raises. I did want to point out that government compensation packages are moving in the direction of the private sector since the recession. The Public Employee Pension Reform Act of 2012 had a lot to do with that. It raised the minimum retirement age of gov employees, increased the employee burden of funding the pensions, and reduced and capped the amount of pension they can receive. It’ll take a while before we see serious financial benefits but it brought us back on track. Also, a growing portion of those benefits are coming out of the pockets of the employees. Medical insurance is no longer free and is no longer for life. Most city employees now pay about 12% of their salaries toward their pensions and then pay for medical and other benefits on top of that. It’s still a great benefits package, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not nearly as good as it once was. Lastly I’d say there are some government jobs you don’t want just anyone doing and city manager is definitely one of those. Competition for talent exists to a surprising extent in the public sector as it does in the private sector but there are serious restrictions on what can be offered in govt jobs. If a private CEO was running a company with as many employees and as big of a budget as the city of Pleasanton, you can bet their salaries are likely several times what the city manager’s is and comes with many more perks and benefits. And those are the jobs high level govt managers can leave the city to take if we don’t take care of them.


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