Big payouts not likely in Lincoln's future

Contracts negotiated differently now
By: Steve Archer, Reporter
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Another large public employee payout is not likely, a Lincoln City Councilman said recently, because contracts are negotiated differently.

Lincoln City Councilman Paul Joiner, in an email interview March 31, said that the council has taken measures with regard to dealing with city manager contractual agreements. It was reported in the Dec. 17 Lincoln News Messenger that former Lincoln city manager Jim Estep, according to a report by Transparent California, was one of the highest paid public employees in the region.

Transparent California, a government watchdog group, reported Estep’s payout upon resigning Aug. 8, 2014 as $512,369.92. Joiner said Estep’s actual final year’s compensation was $470,248.80 – a difference of $42,121.12.

“Moving forward, the City Council negotiated the new city manager’s contract with Matthew Brower at a lower base pay than Estep’s first year base pay, reduced the severance payout from nine months to six months, reduced the number of vacation day accruals from 26 to 20 and limited the number of administrative leave days to 13 per year,” Joiner said.

Joiner added that “years of city service at time of separation will play a significant role in the total payout number based on accruals and possible pay increases based on performance measures.”

“In addition, this council or a future council could, on a majority vote, elect to terminate a city manager without cause, which would then trigger contractually agreed upon severance pay and cash payout of unused leave at the time of termination,” Joiner emailed.

Joiner provided a breakdown of Estep’s final year’s compensation package:

  • Total compensation prior to his retirement was $157,577.80, base pay plus payout of 100 hours of accumulated vacation leave;
  • Total unused leave amounted to $134,607 and
  • Six-month severance package, as outlined in Estep’s employment separation agreement and release, of $178,064.

Robert Fellner, research director for Transparent California, said taxpayers are not always aware of the true cost of public employees.

“Simply publicizing base salaries is inadequate, given that city workers enjoy leave policies and benefit packages that dwarf what most taxpayers receive,” Fellner said, in a prepared statement. “Reporting full compensation reveals a shocking inequity between city employees and the taxpayers who must bear the cost.”