City Manager Tommy Gonzalez’s employment contract will be reviewed and possibly amended during a special City Council meeting today — days after the city of Frisco announced he is a finalist for its top executive position.
The agenda item could signal an effort to further incentivize the city manager to stay in El Paso.
City Rep. Cassandra Hernandez, who called for the special meeting, posted two items on today’s agenda: One to discuss the city manager and city attorney’s annual evaluations, and another to review and amend the city manager’s employment agreement.
“If council wants to take the direction of extending or amending the contract, then council needs to act quickly, if that’s the direction we want to go,” said Hernandez, adding the meeting is in response to Gonzalez being named a finalist for the city manager position in Frisco.
“The reason why I called the meeting is because we want to make sure that we explore all options — if that is the consensus of the council. I don’t know what the consensus of the council will be,” she said.
Gonzalez declined to comment for this story, with the city spokeswoman responding via email that “city staff is not commenting at this time.”
An executive session item on the May 9 City Council agenda called for legal consultation regarding the city manager’s annual performance evaluation. No action was taken. The city manager’s annual review is typically conducted in June.
In June 2019, Gonzalez’s contract was extended for a five-year term set to expire in 2024. The contract 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 Frisco City Council on May 10 issued a press release that said Gonzalez was among four finalists for the position and expected to name a new city manager at the end of the month.
Frisco is part of the larger Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex area and is about 30 miles from Irving, where Gonzalez served as city manager for seven years. He parted ways with the city with a lucrative exit contract in December 2013 after a contentious relationship with city leaders there.
In 2014, Gonzalez replaced Joyce Wilson, who was El Paso’s first city manager. Gonzalez’s base salary was $239,000 when he was first hired. His salary is now at $404,377 and includes a slew of additional perks and compensation.
What’s next and at what cost
There are several possible scenarios for Gonzalez and the city leadership in the coming weeks: Gonzalez accepts the job in Frisco and resigns here – leaving with a lucrative compensation package and the city searching for a replacement; or the City Council boosts his compensation package and extends his contract to keep him on board.
If Gonzalez stays in El Paso, the council can also vote not to renew his contract.
City Rep. Alexsandra Annello said Gonzalez told her he applied for the job to be closer to family, but she is concerned the City Council will hastily raise Gonzalez’s pay in an effort to keep him in El Paso.
“Whether his contract is terminated or he leaves voluntarily we are required to pay out,” Annello said. “So, if this contract is extended another year, that means if he agrees to this, but decides to take this Frisco job, or looks for another job in another six months, we have to pay him out at a higher rate.”
The amount of money that taxpayers will foot the bill for if Gonzalez parts ways with the city of El Paso is largely dependent on his employment contract and whether the appropriate 120-day notice is given.
If Gonzalez takes the job in Frisco and gives the required 120-day notice of resignation as stipulated in his contract here, his severance package would include one year’s salary and benefits, including a car allowance and deferred compensation, in one lump sum. He’d also receive a lump sum payment of any accrued paid and sick leave not to exceed the equivalent of six months — which amounts to at least $808,754.
Gonzalez receives a car allowance of $230.77 bi-weekly which amounts to another $6,000 the city would have to pay him.
He also receives an annual contribution of $20,000 to a deferred compensation plan, which he already received this year. According to his contract the lump sum is paid in January.
If the city opts out of renewing Gonzalez’s contract and gives him a 120-notice they would have to pay the same severance package.
Frisco’s longtime City Manager George Purefoy is retiring, saying he’d leave the post he’s held since 1987 on June 30 of this year. Purefoy is the city’s first and only city manager, and is credited with much of the city’s economic growth.
Frisco has a population of about 215,000 and the city employs about 1,300 people, a press release states. The city’s annual budget is about $745 million, including a general fund budget of $198 million, according to Frisco’s 2021-22 fiscal year report.
By comparison, the city of El Paso’s population is about 678,815, with the city employing nearly 5,800 people. The El Paso City Council last fall adopted a $1.1 billion budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year, including a $476 million general fund budget.
Although it has a much smaller population, Frisco is home to seven pro sport teams and organizations — most notably the Dallas Cowboys — that play or practice in well-known venues such as the Ford Center at The Star and Toyota Stadium.
Frisco’s city manager contract
Purefoy’s base salary is $286,513, according to documents obtained by El Paso Matters from the City of Frisco. During his last pay raise in December 2021, he also received a $12,000 performance bonus and a $22,253 performance lump sum payment.
Purefoy also receives a car allowance and deferred compensation, but there are key differences to what Gonzalez has stipulated in his contract.
Purefoy’s annual vehicle allowance totals $15,600 per year which is higher than Gonzalez’s plan, but his deferred compensation contribution totals $10,000 per year — half of what Gonzalez collects.
There are also key differences in the severance packages.
By contract, Purefoy only had to give a 60-day notice.
The severance pay for the Frisco city manager is a lump sum equivalent to six months base salary as well as unpaid personal, vacation and sick leave compared to the 12 months Gonzalez would be paid if he resigns.
Frisco didn’t post a salary range for whomever is selected as its new city manager, but recruiting documents put together by the search firm Affion Public say the city is “offering a competitive salary commensurate with experience and a comprehensive benefits package.”
Affion is the same search firm the city of El Paso used in hiring Gonzalez.