Council Awards San Antonio City Manager Sculley $75,000 Bonus

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City Manager Sheryl Sculley smiles at B Session.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

City Manager Sheryl Sculley receives a $75,000 performance bonus for 2017.

City Manager Sheryl Sculley will receive a $75,000 bonus for her performance in 2017, San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said Thursday after an executive session with City Council colleagues. The bonus comes in addition to her $450,000 base salary last year.

As part of Sculley's contract, which expires at the end of 2018, she is eligible for a $100,000 maximum bonus each year. She received $67,000 for her performance in 2016 based on metrics established by then-Mayor Ivy Taylor, but Taylor did not continue those standards at the beginning of 2017. Nirenberg and most Council members, who were elected in mid-2017, have said they favor implementing a more formal performance evaluation.

The city manager's performance was discussed during several executive sessions, which are closed to the public, this week and last. Nirenberg informed Sculley of the bonus figure after Thursday's meeting, before speaking with reporters.

Nirenberg praised Sculley's ability to manage the City's more than 12,000 employees and $2.7 billion annual budget while overseeing a $850 million bond program approved by voters in 2017.

"If we didn't have a city manager performing well and it impacted our financial standings, it would cost the City of San Antonio taxpayers tens of millions of dollars every year," Nirenberg said in response to criticism of the size of Sculley's salary and bonus. "The fact of the matter is she's doing extraordinary work making sure we're a well-run city, and that saves us money on a daily basis."

San Antonio Water System President and CEO Robert Puente was awarded a 5 percent pay raise for 2018. His total compensation, including a bonus, will be $567,480. CPS Energy CEO Paula Gold-Williams received a 10.5 percent raise to bring her total compensation to $735,000. SAWS and CPS Energy, which are municipally owned, have about 1,600 and 3,100 employees, respectively.

"[Sculley] is underpaid, believe it or not," Nirenberg said.

Nirenberg acknowledged that several challenges arose last year, including a controversial barge contract, Tricentennial mismanagement, embezzlement at Centro San Antonio, and a scandal involving the police department's special victims unit. But he doesn't lay blame at Sculley's feet.

"[A leader shouldn't be] dinged for every single problem that arises but is judged based on the reaction and the resolution of those problems," Nirenberg said, adding that Sculley addressed those problems quickly and effectively.

"She has been able to respond very quickly to fires," said Councilman Manny Pelaez (D8), "and put those fires out."

Councilman Greg Brockhouse (D6), a longtime critic of Sculley's, said as city manager she is partly responsible for those "basic breakdowns in infrastructure and basic breakdowns in organizational skills and oversight."

Brockhouse said he wouldn't have given her a raise at all, pointing to those breakdowns as well as the ongoing lawsuit the City filed against the fire union over its contract.

But that lawsuit is pursued as a policy direction from Council not from the city manager, Nirenberg said. As for the stalled contract negotiations, "a resolution of the [collective bargaining agreement] requires two parties to engage. At this point we have not had that with the fire [union]."

Before running for the District 6 seat, Brockhouse worked for police and fire unions as a political consultant.

"$75,000," Brockhouse said. "That's almost double what a family of four makes here in San Antonio."

He wants the discussions about the city manager's performance to be held in view of the public. "We should be ashamed of ourselves," he said, referring to holding discussions about Sculley's performance in executive session.

Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1) said that the bonus paid to Sculley for her performance last year is fair. But he wants to see a more formal, written performance evaluation used to evaluate the city manager from year to year.

"What we're going to do is engage a professional consultant to give us a compensation survey to make sure we have the salary levels set at the appropriate level," Nirenberg said. "But also to make sure that we have professionalized metrics moving forward."

Hiring a consultant and establishing a more permanent solution could take up to six months, but should be ready in time to review the city manager's 2019 performance. In the meantime, Council will work to establish temporary guidelines for 2018.

"We're going to have a set of metrics hopefully established within the next month or so to ensure that the city manager, city clerk, and city auditor are being gauged by those metrics for the 2018 year," Nirenberg said. The clerk and auditor are also appointed by Council and undergo the same review process as the city manager.

"I understand that there are people out there who do not like to see public officials get paid anything," Pelaez said. "I think that if we were talking about a $10,000 bonus, people would still be crying foul."

There's room for improvement, he said of Sculley's performance, but declined to comment further.

“Sheryl has my admiration,” Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales (D5) said in a news release. “Running the City is tough. Not only do you have politics, but it’s like running 30 different businesses. She’s not just overseeing pothole repair. Sheryl’s also responsible for public safety, the airport, pre-K education, building infrastructure, catching stray animals, and picking up garbage for nearly 500 square miles.”

On Friday, Councilman John Courage (D9) told constituents and media via email that he opposed the bonus.

"I think our city manager effectively handles the responsibilities of the position, but I did not think her performance garnered an additional $75,000," Courage wrote. "There were no concrete metrics or goals in our city manager's bonus for 2017, and like most personnel decisions, this discussion was held behind closed doors. I thought the bonus' merits were too vague, and I did not feel she exceeded the expectations of the job. I would have also expected a more public process for the highest paid City employee."

He circulated "nationally recognized performance evaluations that other cities employ during their performance reviews" to the mayor and Council, Courage noted.

13 thoughts on “Council Awards San Antonio City Manager Sculley $75,000 Bonus

  1. Outrageous! We reward the woman behind our city-backed scandalous Tricentennial Commission’s contract with KSAT? In case you forgot, that was when the city (under Scully’s watch) secretly rigged a contract with KSAT to act as the official Tricentennial media outlet, instead of having an open, fair competitive bid situation. When this loathsome act of dishonesty was leaked, the commission pretended to hold a fair competition. But the deal had already been done with Phil Lane and Skully under-the-table. Now only KSAT reaps the millions, and instead of having the world’s media, we have only one forth- rate local station covering the celebration. This is beyond belief!

    • Geez, chill a little Ron. “Loathsome”, “outrageous”, “rigged”, “Skully” (and stop with the name-calling too, Ron) are a little over the top.

      Is this the only reason you would say “no!” to her bonus? If not, please list a few more. But I do thank you for bringing up media coverage of our official Tricentennial celebration. In the end, that part of your commentary is the public awareness I need to help me become a better resident of SA.

      • I agree with Ron. Big money no-bid public contracts…that’s the dirty work you’d do if you thought no one would be looking…it confirms the complaints leveled against her…when you are used to doing your job without public oversight and without formalized and publicly available performance reports. If she really was “the woman behind it” you’d think she’d be fired for it, or at least step down like a major CEO would have to in these progressive times over some racist or sexist comment that someone in their company said on Twitter. That’s a reality for some people in this country. At the very least they should not given her a bonus totaling more than what I’ll bring home in 2018. To the average voter who does their best to keep up with news, that’s exactly the kind of corruption and gross mismanagement of public funding that the people should complain about. You can say Brockhouse just wants to boost himself politically all day long, but he’s not wrong to call this out. I’m really glad he did even if he’s the only one.

  2. Total insanity. I have heard many good things about large projects that have had very good outcomes in terms of coming in often under budget and on time but I give that credit to the persons she hired. She on the other hand is responsible for their performance. It is a direct reflection on her. From where I sit she has a city business run with serious ethical issues and has made a lot of self serving decisions about downtown.
    I do personally like her two way street changes, but she benefits a great deal.
    Too many bad deals last year were uncovered for her bonus to exceed 2016.

  3. How Puente and Gold-Williams make more money than Sculley is a mystery to me! They each have limited areas of responsibilities when compared to Sculley who has a myriad of unlike operations to handle in addition to having to deal with city council on a much more frequent basis than Puente and Gold-Williams. When was the last time you read or saw anything about Gold-Williams?? Puente and Gold-Williams seem to have jobs with very few crises to deal with. The only crises Puente has to deal with are self-inflicted. I’m not a fan of inflated salaries paid by taxpayers, but do think city council needs to review the pay for the above three mentioned people/positions to ensure they are properly compensation each. In the review, they should look at how much “down time” each has during the year. I just don’t think Puente and Gold-Williams are spending a lot of their nights and weekends solving problems-unlike Sculley.

    • Offhand, I remember CPSEnergy brings home the bacon to our city budget; I’ll look up to see if SAWS ponies up some dough into the coffers. Maybe that’s a reason the other two executives get a bit more.

      If Mayor Nirenberg is correct that City Manager Sculley is underpaid (I’ll wait for that outside consultancy report next go-around), we should seriously consider raising her base salary. Seems like the continued AAA-bond rating warrants heavy consideration on for that point.

      • SAWS claims to return 2.7% of gross revenue to the City budget. It’s less than $20 million per year; and isn’t really 2.7% – but no one (including City employees) ever seems to do the math. SAWS won’t release its 2018 budget, so it’s tough to document. Nirenberg is currently withholding the study on Puente’s compensation.

        CPS plans on contributing 12.9%, or $351M in FY18.

        Out of a $2.7 Billion budget, CPS is only 13%. Sizable, but I wouldn’t call that “bacon.” And please keep in mind that those “contributions” come from ratepayers via municipally owned utilities; not unlike a dividend to a shareholder.

        On a performance basis, considering scope of responsibility and consequences of failure, Sculley deserves more money than either CEO. That’s a relative comparison amongst all three. It doesn’t mean that the other two aren’t currently overpaid.

  4. “We’re going to hire a consultant, and make a decision in the future. Because that’s our solution for pretty much everything!” Consider that can kicked.

    Meanwhile. the foregone conclusion from the Mayor is that “Sculley is underpaid” despite being paid more than any other City Manager cited in recent reporting. More than Dallas, or Houston, or Austin. She already makes the most, but somehow she deserves more? I’m not sure a “data-directed,” objective report would support that conclusion. Loyalty is nice, objectivity is better.

    Regarding Brockhouse’s comparison to average income: he can always volunteer to take a pay cut, too, since his $45k pay is more than the “family of four” he cites.

    But, all things considered, Sculley does have to work with these people, so maybe the Mayor is right, and she deserves more!

  5. I think she is paid a very fair salary and do not feel she deserved a bonus.
    A bonus for doing her job with plenty of room for improvement.
    We need a strong mayor system and the right to vote for a city manager.

  6. San Antonio is larger than Austin and Dallas. Cities, not greater metropolitan area. She oversees a huge budget and organization. She should be well paid. We want someone good. Most of her “failures” are really those of other comittees or commissioners court. If you want to talk about obscene bonuses look at police and fire fighter pensions and benefits that are going to bankrupt us as a city. She goes to renegotiate and bring some sense to the table and the police union engages in a smear campaign. It looks like whoever wanted to make this an issue just gave the police and fire unions a huge gift. There are bigger things at stake than her bonus. Infant and maternal mortality, obesity, illiteracy, but let’s talk about this.

  7. Has this manager ever “robbed Peter to pay Paul” to make a payroll, or ever waited at least ONE week before she could cash her OWN paycheck?

    $75000.00 bonus for HER struggle.

    It is categorically obscene to make this amount of money without assuming any risk.

    “Turning and turning in the widening gyre…Things fall apart…”

  8. All the city’s managers are overpaid. I am sure they do a lot but so do the rest of us working people. Two things these managers have fallen short on. Rittiman road (Rutted Road)from 35 going East to Gibbs Sprawl is full of potholes and traffic congestion is getting worse! Absolutely nothing is being done to correct the situation. Next, the handling on Thurs, Jan 25,2018 of the bicycle thief who made his way onto 410 and was shot dead by the police after he attacked them. Why was a dangerous traffic jam created over a damn stolen bicycle? I had a horrible commute that evening and rerouted myself and it still took me until close to 9 pm to get home over something that occurred at 6 pm. It was as if the entire police department converged on 410. Helicopters flying overhead – I hope it wasn’t police helicopters wasting my tax money over a stolen bicycle! This mornings commute there was a wreck on 410 with a disabled vehicle in the center lane and not an officer in sight -you can check trans guide on that one. I used to welcome the sight of police officers but these days I get a sinking feeling and become apprehensive. Trans guide reported a major traffic accident which was incorrect. I wonder if that thief had pulled out a gun instead of a knife if there would have ensued a shootout and innocent commuters gotten injured? Was it really necessary to use this kind of tactics over a stolen bike? No more city managers raises. Put a freeze on them. Fix Rutted Road and fix the police.

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