After months of debate and controversy, City Manager Tommy Gonzalez will remain the City’s top leader– at least for a few more months. The Council voted 5-3 on April 4 for a contract extension through Oct. 1 after spending about an hour in closed executive session to discuss the employment contract, which was set to expire on May 1.
Council members Michael Gallaway, Roy Santoscoy, Thomas Spink, Rose Cannaday and Gerald Farris voted for the contract extension. Mayor Beth Van Duyne and council members Joe Putnam and Brad LaMorgese voted against. Dennis Webb was absent.
The extension will keep Gonzalez at the City’s top post until Oct. 1, and then he will stay on until Dec. 31 as a transitional consultant to an Interim City Manager. He will then be paid for accrued vacation, his $60,000 retention pay for this year and a 2009 housing loan he had will be forgiven. If he resigns before the contract ends, the contract will terminate.
City staff said at the meeting that Gonzalez approved the agreement.
“It’s been difficult because Irving was in a stagnant place, and at that time, that council went out and hired Tommy Gonzalez,” Cannaday said. “He’s moved the City forward in giant steps and for that I’m very thankful.
“This contract felt fair,” she added. “It’s the type of thing that will give him time to transition.” However, Spink, who opposed the resolution, said the Council was making a mistake.
“He has done one hell of a job putting this City together,” Putnam said. “I truly respect this man. He’s going to be hired within 60 days by some city who knows what moving forward is all about.”
The Council’s decision ultimately provides for a change to different City leadership and also answers rumors that the Council was going to spend about $500,000 to buy Gonzalez out of his contract.
Discussion about the employment agreement started months ago as the Council eyed the May 1 expiration on Gonzalez’ contract.
In late January, the Council listened to about an hour of public comment about the contract. Some credited Gonzalez for saving the City millions of dollars, while others criticized his leadership. New contract negotiations then turned into a discussion about severance, according to Van Duyne.
Van Duyne pushed for a professional attorney to put together a new contract and bring a recommendation to the Council. While the City Council approved hiring the attorney, the firm was never engaged.
At Thursday’s meeting, Van Duyne said the extension sent “the wrong message” to developers looking to invest in Irving.
Gonzalez’ base salary is about $246,000, according to City documents. He receives another $66,000 in insurance, vacation and other benefits. He also is paid $7,800 in incentive pay, which is available to other City employees through avenues such as a sick leave buyback program.
He is paid about $67,000 in contributions and about $40,000 for housing. Finally, he is eligible for performance retention pay, which this year is about $60,000.
Gonzalez’ contract started in 2008. He has a Master’s degree in public administration from Texas Tech University and a Bachelor’s degree in government from Eastern New Mexico University.
He worked as an Assistant City Manager for the City of Dallas and for the City of Lubbock. He was also the City Manager of Harlingen, TX.
The City Council can hire a search firm for a new city manager after June 30, according to the resolution.