CPS Energy Board Approves 3% Raise, $445,000 Bonus For President and CEO

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CPS Energy President and CEO Paula-Gold Williams speaks at a media event announcing a new fast electric vehicle charging station at Walmart off of Thousand Oaks.

Brendan Gibbons / Rivard Report

CPS Energy President and CEO Paula Gold-Williams receives a bonus of almost $445,000 and a 3 percent raise.

Citing her leadership as the head of the municipally owned electric and gas utility during a time of transition, the CPS Energy board of trustees gave President and CEO Paula Gold-Williams a raise and a bonus of almost $445,000.

At its June meeting Thursday, the board approved a 3 percent raise for Gold-Williams, bringing her base salary from $471,700 to $485,850 per year. They also approved a bonus of $444,819.25 for her work in most recent fiscal year. That includes $106,036.25 deferred from the previous year as a part of a long-term incentive program.

Under the incentive program, Gold-Williams is also eligible for an additional $128,114.25 bonus in 2020 for work performed last fiscal year.

“We feel that [Gold-Williams] has performed very, very strongly in the past and particularly in the fiscal year that just ended,” said trustee Ed Kelley, a former USAA executive who heads the board’s personnel committee.

With total compensation of $930,669, Gold-Williams is San Antonio’s highest-paid municipal government employee, ahead of San Antonio Water System President and CEO Robert Puente and City Manager Erik Walsh.

The pay increase comes as CPS Energy officials prepare to make a case for raising customers’ rates. The utility is facing declining profits from selling power onto the state grid after the closure of its Deely coal-fired units. As the operator of some of the largest pollution sources in Bexar County, it also faces some pressure to avoid investing in fossil fuels in a rapidly warming climate.

“Under some pretty intense circumstances, you’ve done everything you needed to from a metrics standpoint,” said Mayor Ron Nirenberg, a board member in his official capacity.

However, Nirenberg added that “in the environment we’re in, there’s also other standards in that there is increasing scrutiny on these types of organizations and how we compensate.”

Nirenberg likely was referring to the approval last year by voters of a proposition to limit the pay of San Antonio’s city manager to 10 times that of the lowest-paid City employee (around $300,000). Former City Manager Sheryl Sculley retired earlier this year in the wake of the vote.

All CPS Energy trustees voted to approve Gold-Williams’ pay hikes except for Janie Gonzalez, who abstained.

Gonzalez, a CEO and co-founder of local IT firm Webhead confirmed to the CPS Energy board earlier this year, said her abstention had “nothing to do with the confidence to give my opinion to support someone or not.” She said she was abstaining because she had spent only five months on the board and because of concerns over performance metrics.

Gold-Williams’ bonus was based on a review of 13 metrics by third-party management consultant ScottMadden.

“These metrics are not give-me’s,” ScottMadden partner Todd Williams told the board on Thursday. “They’re not easy.”

Metrics include customer satisfaction, injury rates, compliance with environmental laws, adherence to budget, outages, bond ratings, and power plant performance. CPS Energy’s board approves bonuses for its top officials based on how they fare each year. The process has been in place around six years, Gold-Williams said.

“These are very tough standards to meet,” Nirenberg said. “They’re set intentionally so. … They’re done because of the public wanting us to have this kind of process. And whether or not our executives meet these standards is either pass-fail on each one of those metrics.”

CPS Energy officials achieved all but two of the benchmarks, Williams said. One pertains to the rate of employee injuries on the job; the other related to the average frequency of service interruptions CPS Energy customers experienced in the utility’s 2019 fiscal year, which ended Jan. 31.

Gonzalez called this “a very objective process” but also said she’s “a little concerned about that process.”

“I think there’s an opportunity where we can improve to maybe see how we can still have those quantitative processes in place, but be able to have some measures of success that are more relatable or maybe also can be adjusted to some of the expectations our constituents have,” Gonzalez said.

Juanita "Janie" Gonzalez, right, and CPS Board Chair John Steen await a City Council vote confirming Gonzalez to the utility's board.

Brendan Gibbons / Rivard Report

CPS Board Trustee Janie Gonzalez was confirmed by City Council in January of this year.

Last year, the SAWS board for the first time approved similar agreements with consultants to gauge Puente’s performance. He earned $468,194.40 in 2018 and last year turned down a $96,500 bonus, calling the focus on his pay a “distraction.”

Thursday’s meeting marked the first time CPS Energy held a public comment period and live-streamed its proceedings on video. Board Chair John Steen spent about three minutes at the start of the meeting laying out ground rules for public comment that Steen developed with fellow board member Willis Mackey.

In addition to the usual private security, a San Antonio police officer and Bexar County Sheriff’s Office deputy were present at the meeting. Utility staff also posted signs warning attendees that they might be recorded on video.

The utility’s first seven public commenters were all volunteers or staff with environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, Public Citizen, and the Environmental Defense Fund.

Mario Bravo, project manager for Texas energy with the Environmental Defense Fund, drew a line between climate change and the intense storms earlier this month that knocked out power to thousands of CPS Energy customers. He suggested that CPS Energy should make public the cost of dealing with those storms to better inform the local climate debate.

“If you all were to gather what that cost was … and make it public, I think it would help people who do research to understand what do storms look like today and what are they costing us?” Bravo said. “And if we have more frequent storms and more severe storms, what could that cost in the future?”

16 thoughts on “CPS Energy Board Approves 3% Raise, $445,000 Bonus For President and CEO

  1. What absolute hogwash!! She gets a raise AND a huge bonus, and her customers get rate increases to pay for it. I loathe the monopoly that is CPS. Retirees and others on fixed incomes are already staggering under the burden. Every rate payer should be OUTRAGED.

  2. Running a multi-billion dollar company that provides the city a significant portion of its income!
    She is grossly underpaid.

  3. At the beginning of June I read a story on MySA about the deaths of a San Antonio man and his two daughters. Their power was out and they had been running a gasoline powered generator. They died from carbon monoxide poisoning.
    It’s stories like these that when it comes time to pay my CPS bill, I always make a donation to REAP (Residential Energy Assistance Partnership – utility assistance) to help out those needing assistance paying their CPS bill.
    I used to be involved in a council person’s office and it was astounding the number of people who would come in, requesting help paying their CPS bill. It was an entirely different side of San Antonio than I had experienced before and their stories really stuck with me.
    I really feel like an idiot donating to REAP out now that I know CPS has tons of money to give a highly paid executive a half million dollar bonus, but they don’t have money to help San Antonians of lesser means get their power turned back on after it has been cut.

  4. It does not matter if it is CPS Energy, SAWS, VIA MTA or the CoSA department heads, comparing them to private utilities is a false comparison because they are not responsible to all the mistakes they and the predecessors have made and will continue to make. STO, RIO Nogales, Deely land all the rest. They are all irresponsible except to their political handlers and not to the sovereign.

    • To compete with a privately owned utility is always a problem of compensation. It would be a mind-opening vision if privately owned CEO’s salaries and benefits were put up against those in San Antonio. The last CPS CEO left after a privately owned utility offered him more than 3 times his salary and benefits in San Antonio.

  5. Performance based pay is the way to go as long as the incentives set high standards and paved the focus of the executive.

  6. Having a really hard time swallowing this. A rate increase to customers with a pay raise AND big bonus for the CEO?! No way!

  7. When does the Fire Union petition start to cap her salary and institute term limits on this position?
    How is it that during the whole Sculley dust-up, I never heard from San Antonio’s famed institutional whiners and complainers about THIS public servants salary and bonus???????

  8. Remind residents why Mayor Nuremberg got re-elected. He work for the rich and powerful side of San Antonio. Imagine cutting someone’s power off that is poor and not earning enough money to pay their bill. Then our mayor comes out in support of this ridiculous bonus that put’s this person’s salary at twice what the president of the united states earns. Something is drastically wrong with this process.
    The mayor needs to deny any request to raise our utility rates. When is the last time anyone got a pay increase in this city?

  9. Our community needs to start talking about the fact we continue to be the most economically segregated city in the US. So my question to CPS is – In the realm of what CPS controls in our community what measures are you taking to help eliminate this national title we hold? #endeconomicsegregationsa

  10. The ripoff of tax payers continues.The head of the Alamobowl makes about the same as does the director of the foodbank.

  11. “Public servant” is a pretty loose term given this scenario. If Ms. Gold-Williams is REALLY a servant for the people, she would not take this “bonus/raise.” Instead, she would be willing to have the monies spent in service to the people of San Antonio, especially to the elderly and the poor in the heat of an increasing global-warming summer.

    So what is going to be? I am pretty sure I know the answer to this question, but just think of what it would say about our city, and Ms. Gold Williams if I were wrong about my assumption. Just think of it.

  12. If the citizens of San Antonio want an idiot to run CPS, than let them pay an idiots salary. See what will happen to your bill and grid after that colossal idiot gets a hold of it. People are paid high salaries because they make decisions that save money or make money.

    • And, so why are our bills going up in a rate hike (read the story)? It is we, average citizens who are not saving money here. It is this Ms. Gold-Williams who is making money. Really? Double her salary??? When my CPS bills are 1/2 of what they are now, then maybe we can talk about her merits as you have described them.

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