City Manager Tommy Gonzalez is getting a pay raise for the second time this year, while City Attorney Karla Nieman is receiving a third salary increase — both after being evaluated earlier this month.

The city released the final performance evaluations for Gonzalez and Nieman on Wednesday. Both received “exceeded standards” scores for the evaluation year from June 2021 to June 2022.

Gonzalez received a score of 3.63 on a scale of 1 to 4, with 4 being the top score. His contract, obtained by El Paso Matters through the Texas Public Information Act, stipulates that he is entitled to a 5% merit increase if he receives an “exceeds standards” score of 3 or better — putting his new annual salary at about $431,000.

The council’s comments on the evaluation form state that Gonzalez “is creative and resourceful in addressing the issues the City has faced. He faces challenges and commits to resolving matters professionally and promptly … The Council looks forward to another year working with Mr. Gonzalez.”

Nieman receives a 2% merit increase if she receives a “meets standards” score of 3 or better. She received a score of 4.28 on a scale of 1 to 5.

Her base salary, after receiving pay raises in February and May, was $280,194, according to the documents obtained by El Paso Matters. With the merit increase, her new base salary will be about $286,000.

“The city attorney has effectively ensured that the City’s interests in utility matters and other significant litigation were well represented and positive outcomes were achieved for the benefit of the citizens of El Paso,” the evaluation form states.

City officials said the evaluation forms are no longer being filled out by the individual representatives. Instead, the council developed a single evaluation to provide a collective performance assessment of the previous year’s performance and to set goals for the next year. 

The evaluation method changed over prior years as the city aimed to withhold individual city representatives’ evaluation forms.

This is the second year the city hires outside legal counsel to assist with the routine evaluations.

Both their merit-based pay raises are effective starting at the next pay period.

Gonzalez and Nieman both received 1.5% pay raises in May for an across-the-board minimum wage increase given to all non-uniform city employees, documents obtained by El Paso Matters through the Texas Public Information Act show.

Nieman also received a service time pay increase in February.

Gonzalez was named city manager in 2014, while Nieman worked with the city for about 11 years and served as interim city attorney before being named city attorney in 2018.

The latest pay raise for Gonzalez comes following a controversial five-year contract extension that was twice vetoed by Mayor Oscar Leeser. The extension was granted after Gonzalez was named as a finalist for a city manager position in Frisco, Texas.

The council, during a special meeting June 6, voted 6-2 to override Leeser’s veto keeping Gonzalez’s contract extension in place. The change extends his employment through at least 2029.

The recent extension is not the first time Gonzalez has received additional perks to his lucrative employment contract.

Documents obtained by El Paso Matters through the public information act show that taxpayers have paid thousands of dollars per year for Gonzalez’s annual executive health exam at the Cooper Clinic for Preventative medicine in Dallas that was added to his contract in 2015.

The documents show that the first physical Gonzalez received in 2015 was not at the Cooper’s clinic and cost $250, but do not specify where the physical was conducted. In the subsequent years that Gonzalez got his physicals at the Coopers clinic in Dallas, the city paid for the cost of the exam and undisclosed expenditures that were redacted from the documents released to El Paso Matters.

From 2016-20, the city paid just over $30,000 for the exam and expenses, as well as an additional $12,000 in 2021, documents show. About 45% of that was for expenses. The figures do not include expenses for 2021, which were not listed in the documents.

There were no claims filed as of this June, according to the documents.

In 2018, the city also agreed to pay the annual premium for the city manager’s $5 million life insurance policy as long as he’s employed with the city. The annual cost to taxpayers is $23,315, according to the documents.

Elida S. Perez is a longtime community and investigative reporter. Her experience includes work as city government watchdog reporter for the El Paso Times, investigative reporter for El Paso Newspaper...