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City manager gets a contract

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By David Giuliani

With the new mayor breaking a tie, the City Council on Wednesday voted to give the city manager a three-year contract.

City Manager Timothy Dodge, a Santa Rosa native, will get $95,000 a year, which is what he has been making since the city hired him last spring. Dodge will be able to get increases of 1 to 5 percent a year, based on the council’s evaluations of his performance.

In another decision, the council voted unanimously to hire interim City Attorney Dave Romero for the permanent position. He’ll make $100,000 a year.

At the council’s first meeting since last week’s election, new Mayor Alfonso Ortiz asked the governing body to approve the contract with Dodge.

The manager’s post has been something of a revolving door since 1998, when then-City Manager Les Montoya resigned. Most managers since then have left unhappily.

Members of the last council wanted to enter a contract with Dodge a couple of months ago, saying the city badly needed stability. But they decided to delay the decision until a new council took office.

The two new council members, Tonita Gurule-Giron and David Romero, opposed making a decision on the manager’s contract at their first meeting. They said they wanted some time to evaluate Dodge’s performance.

“I am not doubting under any circumstances (Dodge’s) competence,” Gurule-Giron said. “I think it’s unfair to Councilman Romero and myself that we rubberstamp a contract prior to us having the opportunity and privilege of working with you.”

Gurule-Giron also said she would prefer a two-year contract, instead of three.

Councilwoman Diane Moore and Andrew Feldman said they supported the contract.

“We have worked with Mr. Dodge for the last year. The community has embraced Mr. Dodge,” Moore said.

The contract mandates twice-a-year evaluations of Dodge’s performance. If he is fired without just cause, the city must give Dodge a severance payment amounting to half a year’s pay.

With Feldman and Moore in favor and Gurule-Giron and Romero against, Ortiz broke the tie in support of the contract. The mayor had promised in his campaign to keep Dodge.

As for the city attorney’s position, Dave Romero started in January after previous interim City Attorney Carlos Quiñones resigned.

Although Ortiz proposed a three-year contract for the attorney, council members said they preferred one year.

The attorney said he could understand the council’s reasoning.

“I respect your need to get to know me better,” said Romero, who has years of experience in the field of municipal law.

The council approved the contract.

Romero had been working as an independent contractor for the city; now he’ll be considered a city employee, but he’ll be allowed to continue a limited private practice on the side.

At the meeting’s end, Councilman Feldman said he was glad that the council discussed the personnel matters in open, rather than behind closed doors.