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Richardson declines pay raise prior to evaluation

Charlottesville City Manager Tarron Richardson turned down a $10,000 pay raise before his performance evaluation.

Councilor Heather Hill said Richardson declined the raise because he wanted his compensation to be on the “same schedule” as other employees.

The City Council conducted Richardson’s performance evaluation in a closed session prior to its meeting Monday evening.

His contract included a clause for the evaluation and, if he received a “satisfactory” evaluation, his salary would increase from $205,000 to $215,000.

The council conducted a similar evaluation with Police Chief RaShall Brackney last year. On Jan. 1, her contract guaranteed that she got a 3% increase.

Councilors wouldn’t discuss Richardson’s evaluation or comment on personnel matters.

During his tenure, Richardson has overhauled management and revised the city’s budgeting process. On the other hand, several high-ranking officials have resigned and a short-lived proposal to design a consolidation of city and school administrative offices drew the ire of residents.

Part of Monday’s public comment focused on one of those resignations, that of Deputy City Manager Mike Murphy.

Murphy, who was interim city manager before Richardson’s appointment, stepped down earlier this month, but will remain on the payroll through Oct. 31. He has declined to elaborate on the reason for his resignation.

His salary is $158,829. The clause in his interim city manager contract, which still applied after Richardson’s hiring, allowed him full retirement benefits under the city’s retirement structure whether he makes it to the retirement date, was asked to leave or was dismissed.

City resident Chris Meyer urged the council not to approve payments for officials who step down.

Meyer cited the severance agreement for former Police Chief Al Thomas, which kept him on the payroll through July 2019 after stepping down in December 2017. His salary was $134,000.

Former City Manager Maurice Jones also benefited from the forgiveness of an $80,000 loan that was provided for him to move to the city. The city opted not to renew his contract in 2018 and he took a job as the town manager in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Hill said that City Attorney John Blair has indicated he would not recommend such contract clauses.

Mayor Nikuyah Walker, who didn’t vote in favor of Murphy’s appointment, said the contract was “excessive.”

Councilor Mike Signer said it wasn’t an ideal contract, but was the only option at the time. Jones’ final day was approaching and the person chosen as interim city manager withdrew from the process, leaving the council in the lurch.

“There was a context with why this particular employee would be able to negotiate that package,” Signer said. “We didn’t have an emergency manager in place when we were coming into the anniversary of Aug. 12.”

Monday was also the final meeting for Signer and Councilors Wes Bellamy and Kathy Galvin. They each received an honorary key to the city and a plaque honoring their service.


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