Council Finalizes Erik Walsh’s Contract, Does Not Include Bonus

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Deputy City Manager Erik Walsh

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

Deputy City Manager Erik Walsh is the lone finalist to succeed Sheryl Sculley as San Antonio's city manager.

As city manager of San Antonio, Erik Walsh will receive a base salary of $312,000 and other benefits, according to Mayor Ron Nirenberg, but his contract will not include a performance bonus.

City and Walsh’s attorneys finalized his contract Wednesday evening, ahead of Council’s vote to appoint him Thursday morning. If approved, Walsh’s effective date will be March 1. Click here to download the draft contract.

Walsh will be getting a raise to become city manager, but not by much because his contract is bound by voter-approved limits that cap the term of the position to eight years and the annual compensation to 10 times the lowest-paid City employee, roughly $312,000.

However, the contract includes other key terms and benefits including expenses and professional development provisions, retirement plan contributions, health insurance, and others.

Walsh will receive no less than $500 per month for a car allowance, $75 for cellphone, and $700 for expenses related to other duties such as meetings, travel, “and promotion of the work of the City,” according to the contract.

Walsh’s contract includes “expense allowances that you would expect for the city manager,” Nirenberg told reporters after a closed-door Council meeting Wednesday afternoon before the draft was finalized. “Obviously the City Council needs protections as does the employee.”

Outgoing City Manager Sheryl Sculley, who announced her retirement in November after 13 years in the job, also had such allowances, an expense account, and a severance clause. Walsh’s severance package includes 18 months of base salary in the event of a “without cause termination.” If fired “for cause,” meaning if he’s negligent in certain ways, he would not receive that pay.

Sculley’s base pay for 2018 was $467,788. She received more than $100,000 in other benefits and was eligible for a performance bonus of up to $100,000 – the latter having been subject to Council’s discretion and temporary metrics established by Council. Sculley declined to accept the bonus this year.

Walsh’s total compensation in fiscal year 2018 was $326,979. That included $253,791 in base pay, $9,494 of leave time sold back to the City, $56,853 for health care and additional benefits, and $6,840 in other incentives. 

Asked if the City will be getting more for its money than it should be, Nirenberg said, “Yes. Without a doubt.”

Last year, the City commissioned a third-party firm to establish more formal annual performance metrics and perform a compensation study of the city manager position amid criticism of Sculley’s salary and bonuses. She was also seen as the target of the firefighters union-backed Proposition B that imposed the pay and term caps for future city managers, though the new rules could not apply to her.

Those metrics, expected to be finalized in the next month, will no longer be used to evaluate incentive pay, Nirenberg said, but the evaluation could be used to establish cause for pay increases – that is, if the City’s minimum wage increases – and possibly build a case to change the salary cap rule.

“When everyone sees how well Erik is going to do, I think there will be momentum created” to alter the cap, Nirenberg said. Proposition B amended the City’s charter, which can not be changed again until 2021, according to state law.

“We’re going to live within the bounds of Proposition B, there’s nothing else I can say about that,” Nirenberg said. “That’s for the community to consider.”

The City’s minimum wage, after three years of increases, is $15 per hour. There has not yet been discussion to increase it further, Nirenberg said.

“Wages go up,” he said. “So when we adjust the city manager’s salary based on that, we can use the evaluation metric.”

The metric recommendations will come with a compensation study aimed at determining what the entry-level pay for San Antonio’s city manager should be. It’s unclear what that number is, but several people, including Sculley, have said it’s far above $312,000. She was offered about $300,000 when she was recruited to San Antonio in 2005.

The contract can be revisited and amended at the Council’s discretion.

Other terms outlined in the contract also include standard paid leave “with ability to carry forward 200 days,” health and liability insurance, and retirement package.

12 thoughts on “Council Finalizes Erik Walsh’s Contract, Does Not Include Bonus

  1. This is the first article I have read that even talked about City employee minimum pay. I understand the cap (though I didn’t vote for it) rules but instead of continuing to talk about how it affects future recruitment, let’s start talking about raising City employee minimum pay to give more breathing room for City Manager pay. I truly believe that most who voted for this cap did so to limit the disparities between the bottom and top wage earners in hopes of improving the lives of the bottom wage earners!

  2. David, I think you are looking at it backwards…

    Are the people getting paid $15/hour actually earning that rate?

    It seems clear that Walsh is highly skilled and is easily worth the $300k.

    However, the people making minimum wage might or might not actually be worth the $15/hour.

    If they are late, just don’t show up, are not motivated, work incredibly slowly, or other, then we are over-paying them at $15/hour.

    Each person should take personal responsibility for their situation.

    If they only want to do manual labor forever and not improve their skill sets, then they are accepting $15/hour.

    However, if they go get some certifications, get educated, develop additional skills, then they can easily move up and make more money.

    I’d guarantee that when Walsh was in high school or early 20’s he worked a job making $8-15/hour.

    He has now developed himself to making $300k/yr.

    Everyone else has the same opportunity. We’ve got public libraries, SAC, and a number of trade schools and apprenticeships available.

    But each person has to decide they want to reach across the table and work to achieve more than they have now.

    • It takes more than an education to get ahead. Just ask those with bachelors, masters, and PhDs who earn less than $100K. I agree that Mr. Walsh worked hard and worked his way up to become city manager, but I suspect there are many more folks who have worked just as hard who have not had the opportunity to advance. I agree hard work is a key ingredient to advancement, but some good luck along the way also helps.

      • Ken,

        Good luck is defined as hard work, focus, and grit. If you have taken the time to get the education, you can also put a plan in place to maximize that value in the marketplace. But, if you stay in your current job hoping for your boss to simply keep giving you raise after raise after raise, that is not likely to happen. You will either be proactive about your life, or you will be reactive to whatever happens to you. The key is planning. Ask yourself, where do you want to be in 10 or 20 years, and what are the steps that you have to take to get there? Then you simply get to work. Good thing is…it is up to you. It’s definitely not up to luck.

    • TC. Totally agree. They were not getting $15 per hour because they were not worth it. Put them in the free market and see what they get. The raise was just a virtue signaling by the council at our expense. Did productivity improve? Are city services any better? No. Just more proof the council doesn’t give a hoot about the citizenry.

  3. Having served in the military, nobody serves in the military to get rich. Most serve because it is an honorable career. It is definitely a service before self profession. I see no reason why the city manager’s job should not be similar. Pay is not the end all, be all. My hope is Mr. Walsh is working to better the community he calls home and not to get the highest pay possible.

    • I agree with you on Walsh, but look at the $15 per hour workers. They are not going to get rich, but they are getting more than they could elsewhere. Government largesse distorts the market. But it’s the same nationwide. It used to be that people worked for the government knowing they would be paid less, but they had security. Now they get more than the private sector and still have the security.

      While we are worrying about the Fire Fighter’s Union despoiling the city, and indeed firefighters are anxious to milk the taxpayers for every dime they can (don’t say it’s the union; they are the union), how much is the raise given across the board costing us? Just asking.

      I’m not au fait with the budget.

  4. “Walsh will be getting a raise to become city manager, but not by much…”

    Seriously? In what world does going from a salary of $253,000 to $312,000 qualify as a small raise? That’s a $59,000 pay bump per year, an increase of nearly 23%. This take seems a bit out of touch with the majority of San Antonio residents’ day to day lives. But I suppose residents at or below median income levels are not really the Rivard Report target audience.

    • Fair point that nearly $60k is a substantial increase, Curious Guy. There might have been a better way to word this, but what I meant is that the raise is not commiserate with the increase of workload and responsibility that Walsh will have as city manager as opposed to deputy city manager.

    • TC. Totally agree. They were not getting $15 per hour because they were not worth it. Put them in the free market and see what they get. The raise was just a virtue signaling by the council at our expense. Did productivity improve? Are city services any better? No. Just more proof the council doesn’t give a hoot about the citizenry.

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