The City Council voted 5 to 3 to extend City Manager Tommy Gonzalez’s contract another five years and possibly boost his salary up to $450,000 following a special hours-long meeting conducted mostly in executive session on Monday.
The move comes days after Gonzalez was named as a finalist for another city manager position in Frisco, Texas, where the top candidate is expected to be named by month’s end. City Council was not scheduled to meet this week. Monday’s special meeting was hastily set up last week.
Gonzalez withdrew his candidacy for the Frisco job shortly after the El Paso City Council vote. “I am overwhelmed with the support I have received from the community, our employees, and the City Council. With this in mind, I have removed myself from the City Manager search in Frisco, Texas,” he said in a statement issued by the city. “I’m committed to El Paso. We’re not finished here.”
City Reps. Alexsandra Annello, Joe Molinar and Claudia Rodriguez voted against the changes to the city manager’s employment contract.
City Reps. Peter Svarzbein, Cassandra Hernandez, Isabel Salcido, Cissy Lizarraga and Henry Rivera voted in favor. The mayor only votes when there is a tie, or to veto a council action.
Gonzalez was not in City Council chambers when the meeting started or when the meeting ended, but met with the council behind closed doors.
Annello, the only member of council to speak after the four-hour closed-door discussion, said she would not support the changes because they were largely negotiated between Gonzalez and one other elected official. She did not name the official.
“There are things in this contract that do not protect the citizens of El Paso and the council did not want to take those up today,” Annello said. “They only wanted to discuss things that were determined between one city representative and Mr. Gonzalez in private and I don’t think that’s appropriate.”
She also said that while she thinks Gonzalez is doing a good job, there are elements of his employment contract with which she does not agree.
The city manager’s contract was set to expire in 2024, and automatically renews for two two-year terms unless the council gives the city manager a 120-day notice that it’s not renewing the contract. The council majority on Monday voted to extend his contract through June 2029.
Gonzalez has been the city manager since 2014 when he replaced Joyce Wilson. His base salary was $239,000 when he was first hired.
His salary is now at $404,377 and includes a lucrative benefits package.
The second change the council voted on will allow the city to increase the city manager’s pay to at least $450,000. Any pay raise would have to be approved by the City Council following his annual performance evaluation. The council did not take action on the item that was on the agenda to discuss his evaluation.
The city manager’s annual performance evaluation is typically conducted in June, as per his employment contract.
City Council also agreed to pay Gonzalez’s portion of his city’s pension plan contribution.
As part of his existing contract, Gonzalez also receives a car allowance of $230.77 bi-weekly which amounts to another $6,000 per year and an annual contribution of $20,000 to a deferred compensation plan, among other extensive benefits.