Facebook / George H. Rodriguez
In a closed-door meeting Thursday, the San Antonio City Council and Mayor Ron Nirenberg decided that City Manager Sheryl Sculley deserved a $75,000 bonus for her 2017 job performance.
Under Sculley's current 2016 contract (which expires at the end of 2018), she's automatically granted an annual $25,000 raise. Meaning that, on top of her base salary of $450,000, Sculley will get a total $100,000 boost in compensation this year — $550,000. This easily makes her the highest-paid city manager in Texas.
At an impromptu press conference following the meeting, Nirenberg said Sculley deserves every penny of the jaw-dropping number.
"The fact of the matter is, this is a $2.7 billion dollar operation with 12,000 employees," Nirenberg said. "We have a fantastic city manager. Compared to many other city employees at the CEO level and above, she is underpaid — believe it or not."
Nirenberg's referring to the CEOS of other publicly-funded organizations, like CPS Energy's Paula Gold-Williams who receives $735,000 and University Health System's George Hernandez, who receives $725,000 (both salaries have bonuses calculated in). Sculley oversees more employees than both UHS and CPS have combined.
Councilman Manny Pelaez echoed Nirenberg's praise, and said Sculley shouldn't be responsible for all the city's past mishaps.
"I walked into this job not really knowing the amount of work that is placed on her," Pelaez said. "I never realized how strong a woman she is ... my admiration for Sheryl Sculley has grown dramatically."
Regardless, Sculley's salary soars high above others in her position in other major Texas cities. Dallas' new City Manager T.C. Broadnax will make $395,000
starting Feb. 1 (a raise from his Feb. 2017 starting pay of $375,000). Broadnax's predecessor, Arthur Gonzales, had a final salary of $400,000. Fort Worth City Manager David Cooke makes $314,995
and Austin's incoming City Manager Spencer Cronk is expected to make around $309,000
. Houston does not have a city manager, since it runs on a "strong mayor" form of government, where the mayor plays the manager role. San Antonio, however, uses a "council-manager" system. Most major cities, like Chicago, San Diego, and New York, use the "strong mayor" model.
Sculley's ballooning income has been a growing point of contention both within City Hall and among the public, often used against her in contrast with underfunded city programs.
Sculley's current contract permitted up to a $100,000 bonus, but the council somehow settled on $75,000. Councilman Greg Brockhouse, a longtime critic of Sculley's work, said there were "multiple" members of the council who didn't want her to get any bonus dollars. Brockhouse was one of them.
"Seventy-five thousand is double what the average family makes in San Antonio," Brockhouse said Thursday. "We talk equity in City Hall, but it's selective. When we take care of a big CEO of a city that makes half a million dollars, but we give the animal care officer a 2 percent raise, that is embarrassing. We don't offer equity of pay across the entire city."
He said the $75,000 bonus was "laughable" based on the year Sculley's had. He blamed Sculley for a landslide of city issues: San Antonio Police Department's mismanaged sexual assault cases
, Centro's embezzlement
problem, the floundering Tricentennial Commission
, the drama over the San Antonio River Barge
contract, and the unresolved Fire Department contract.
Brockhouse was especially frustrated that the city lacked any metric-based system to review the city manager's annual performance. Nirenberg instead held-one-on-one meetings with each member of council to gauge how they thought Sculley was doing — and then had council members come to a consensus on her bonus during the Thursday meeting.
Only once, in 2016
, has the city used a metric system to rank a city manager's performance. Former Mayor Ivy Taylor did not reintroduce the system in 2017, leaving Nirenberg empty-handed when Sculley's annual review rolled around.
"That was the situation that the city council was faced with [after Taylor left]: How do we gauge the level of performance pay without the metrics having been established?" Nirenberg said. "So, we're making sure we don't have this problem again."
Nirenberg said the city will hire a consultant to survey members of the council about manager compensation and create cemented metrics to measure a manager's success. That system could take several years to iron out, Nirenberg noted.