Scott Ball / Rivard Report
Praising her work at the head of the municipally owned electric and gas utility, CPS Energy’s board of trustees approved a raise and bonus for the utility’s top official.
At its June meeting Monday, the board unanimously approved a base salary increase for President and CEO Paula Gold-Williams’ of $26,700 from $445,000 to $471,700.
The board also approved a bonus of $260,629.25 for Gold-Williams’ work in the utility’s 2018-2019 fiscal year, which began Feb. 1, 2017, and ended Jan. 31. Gold-Williams is also eligible for an additional $106,036.25 bonus in 2019 for work performed last fiscal year under a long-term incentive program.
The board awarded the salary increase and bonus despite Gold-Williams missing three of six performance metrics, according to the results of a review by consultant ScottMadden.
“The metrics are really difficult metrics,” said Board of Trustees Vice-Chair Ed Kelley, who chairs the board’s personnel committee. “They’re not creampuffs.”
The metrics Gold-Williams missed relate to workplace safety, environmental compliance, and the financial performance of CPS Energy’s generating units. Gold-Williams did achieve three metrics related to customer satisfaction, electricity reliability, and staying within the utility’s budget.
Until recently, Gold-Williams was alone among the top officials of CPS Energy, the San Antonio Water System, and the City for having her compensation tied to an independent, third-party review.
That changed this year, with the SAWS board approving a review by Scott Madden of its president and CEO Robert Puente’s annual performance.
City Council last week approved a three-year $279,000 agreement with Segal Waters Consulting to review City Manager Sheryl Sculley’s performance, along with the City’s internal auditor, clerk, and presiding judge of municipal court.
Last year, Gold-Williams also missed three of six performance metrics and earned a bonus of $290,386 and a salary increase from $415,000 to $445,000.
Gold-Williams’ contract states that she is eligible each year for a performance bonus of up to 40 percent of her base salary, Kelley said. ScottMadden’s scores account for 80 percent of Gold-William’s compensation review, with the other 20 percent at the discretion of the board, he said.
Asked how the board translates the performance review into salary and bonus figures, Kelley said that some metrics are weighted more highly than others, though he was not able to specify off-hand what the exact weighting for each metric was.
CPS Energy officials did not share the full reviews by ScottMadden or Willis Towers Watson, another consultant that compared Gold-Williams’ compensation to the bosses of 20 other similarly sized utilities across the industry.
Kelley said Willis Towers Watson found that Gold-Williams’ compensation is 74 percent below 50th percentile of the 20 utilities in that peer group.
“Could she make more money? I think undoubtedly the answer is yes,” Kelley said. “But she likes what’s she’s doing. … The biggest issue we have with Paula is, we keep telling her, ‘This is a marathon.’ She’s handling it like a sprint. She is working day and night.”
This year is Gold-Williams’ second at the head of CPS Energy, the utility serving roughly 810,000 electrical customers and 340,000 gas customers in the San Antonio area. A San Antonio native who came up through the utility's ranks, Gold-Williams had previously served as interim CEO after the departure of previous CEO Doyle Beneby in 2015.
In April, the utility's board approved a $2.66 billion 2018-2019 budget that did not include rate increases for customers, but Gold-Williams in April raised the possibility of increasing rates the following year.
Other board members had high praise for Gold-Williams, who has been recognized with numerous industry awards since she got the utility’s top job.
“CPS Energy had a great year,” Board Chair John Steen told Gold-Williams before the vote. “Your execution all the way around is outstanding. We appreciate everything you do.”
Mayor Ron Nirenberg, a CPS Energy board member in his official capacity, called the board’s process “professional and defensible” in “an era of heightened scrutiny on salaries in the public sector, particularly CEOs.”
“She has worked so well with the citizens of San Antonio to address the major concerns of reliability, affordability, as well as achieving the resiliency that we want as a city,” Nirenberg continued. “I’m proud that Paula Gold-Williams is the CEO of CPS Energy.”
Senior reporter Iris Dimmick contributed to this article.