Brendan Gibbons / Rivard Report
San Antonio’s largest municipal corporation and its highest-paid local government employee did not meet three performance metrics for the 2017 fiscal year.
While CPS Energy met or exceeded a series of goals related to financial performance, efficiency, customer service, reliability, and others, the electric and gas utility did not meet its environmental compliance or safety goals, President and CEO Paula Gold-Williams told CPS Energy’s board of trustees at its Monday meeting.
Gold-Williams herself is also on track to meet most of her performance goals, except for one related to the frequency of power outages.
CPS Energy serves more than 800,000 electric customers and more than 300,000 gas customers in the San Antonio area.
Gold-Williams is alone among San Antonio’s top three public employees for having her compensation tied to a formal third-party evaluation process. Consultant Scott Madden compares the utility and its CEO to other publicly-owned and investor-owned utilities. Her total compensation could be $735,000 in 2018.
The consultant evaluates CPS Energy’s performance based on annual metrics and Gold-Williams’ performance based on biannual metrics. At Monday’s meeting, the utility’s board approved continuing another round of these evaluations.
“These metrics are not easy,” Gold-Williams said at the meeting. “They are set and they are standardized so it is possible they can fail.”
The issue is especially relevant as the San Antonio City Council considers more specific performance metrics for City Manager Sheryl Sculley, whose pay is lower than Gold-Williams' and San Antonio Water System President and CEO Robert Puente's.
Sculley's base salary and bonus totaled $525,000 in 2017 and she does not have a formal, third-party performance evaluation based on specific goals. Nor does Puente, who will receive total compensation of $567,480 in 2018.
Mayor Ron Nirenberg raised the issue of performance metrics last summer after casting the lone vote against Puente’s raise and bonus last summer, at the time contrasting SAWS’ approach with CPS Energy’s.
Monday's evaluation is preliminary, as CPS Energy finishes its fiscal year at the end of January. Its board gets a report on the metrics this time every year, said board member Edward Kelley, who served as chairman until Monday’s meeting.
“We want our CEO and senior managers to have a good wage that is consistent with our industry, but we also want to put a significant portion of their compensation at risk,” he said.
The board did not vote on any salary or bonus changes for Gold-Williams on Monday.
CPS was set to meet its safety goals until a period between November and early January, when four employees were injured – three working on line crews and one in the power generation division, Chief Security and Safety Officer Fred Bonewell said.
All are recovering from their injuries, Gold-Williams said.
“Sometimes you’re intensified in your work and you want to get your customers restored as soon as you can and you want to go out and get those jobs done, but most of our work needs to have a cadence and pace where they’re thinking about safety top-of-mind,” she explained.
The utility also almost met its goal of zero environmental compliance incidents in a year except for one so-called “exceedance” related to an instrument on a fuel oil storage tank that wasn’t properly calibrated, Gold-Williams said.
It should have been reported to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality within 24 hours, but was not, she said.
“Those rules for compliance are set out for a purpose,” she said. “They’re intended to make sure our regulatory bodies have confidence that we are on top of every incidence including reporting. We did not meet that metric.”
SAWS’ board is also taking another look at performance metrics for Puente, SAWS Vice President of Communications Gavino Ramos and Nirenberg spokesman Bruce Davidson wrote in text messages.
The CEO of the water and sewer utility serving 1.7 million customers in the San Antonio area recently discussed his performance in 2017 and metrics for 2018 before a task force composed of trustees David McGee, Louis Rowe, and Pat Merritt.
The full board is expected to discuss Puente’s performance at its February meeting, Ramos and Davidson said.