The City of San Antonio on Wednesday formally launched its search for third-party firms that will develop performance metrics and salary analysis for appointed City employees. The process was publicly initiated in January when Council members and others raised concerns that no formal review metrics are in place and questioned City Manager Sheryl Sculley's salary and bonus.
The request for proposals will be released on Tuesday, March 6, and a five-member committee comprised of City staff and people with experience from organizations outside the City will review submissions through May. The city manager, internal auditor, clerk, and presiding judge of the municipal court are all appointed and will be included in the studies.
Mayor Ron Nirenberg said he expects Council to vote to approve the final products in June and use the metrics for the 2019 review process. In the meantime, he said he's been working with staff on 18 metrics that will be used for 2018 and reviewed by City Council in a closed session next week.
Performance metrics development and compensation review are two different products, but one firm could win the contract for one or both, the City's Human Resources Director Lori Steward told the Council's Governance Committee Wednesday. "More than 60 different firms" have been identified as possible applicants.
The evaluation committee is comprised of too many City staff members, said Councilwoman Ana Sandoval (D7), who made a successful motion for two outside experts to be included instead of one.
"I can appreciate what their concern is, but I think we're getting caught up in the details," Nirenberg told the Rivard Report. "It's really just about scoring. We want to make sure we select a qualified firm, and it's going to be independent so there's no chance of contamination.
"We're doing this in a transparent and good-faith way to make sure that our metrics are standard and best practices in the industry."
That work, Councilman Greg Brockhouse (D6) told the Rivard Report, could have been done in-house.
"We have all the tools to do it ourselves ... we're basically outsourcing the leadership of the city manager's expectations," said Brockhouse, who led the most recent criticism on Sculley's compensation and pushed for professional performance metrics. "But at least there's change coming to the process."
Sculley, who has been San Antonio's city manager for 12 years, received a base salary of $450,000 and a $75,000 performance bonus for her work in 2017. Top executives of CPS Energy, San Antonio Water System, Bexar County Hospital District, and other public entities are paid more but have less employees and smaller budgets than the City. The city manager oversees 12,000 employees and a $2.7 billion budget.
CPS Energy has conducted annual salary reviews for years and SAWS recently hired a contractor to begin doing the same.
Sculley's salary is also the focus of one of three petitions that the San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association has launched in an attempt to change how the City functions. Union President Chris Steele, another longtime critic of Sculley, wants to see – among other things – a term limit of eight years for future city managers and their salary capped at 10 times that of the lowest-paid city employee. Before being elected to Council, Brockhouse worked as a political consultant for the police and fire unions.
"I don't necessarily agree with all aspect of these [petitions] either," said Brockhouse, who does not serve on the Governance Committee. "I also don't want to be hamstringed" when making hiring decisions.
"We're in the process of asking a lot of questions [about the impact of these positions]," he said.
The City’s lawsuit against the fire union contract's 10-year "evergreen clause" is being reviewed by the Texas Supreme Court, but it has not yet announced if it will hear the case.