Santa Ana City Council members Tuesday night decided not to grant City Manager David Cavazos a 5 percent performance bonus after residents said the money should instead go to public services.
Cavazos was poised to receive the bonus, which calculated on his $315,000 salary would have been an extra $15,750. But several residents – including a group of teenage students — showed up for public comments before the council’s closed session discussion on the issue and complained that Cavazos already receives an extraordinary amount of money from taxpayers.
Alitzel Velasco, a student at MacArthur Fundamental Intermediate School, said news of Cavazos’ bonus reminded her of residents who come before the council asking for things like bike lanes and park improvements, only to be told there’s no room in the budget.
“If we have money why don’t we spend it on things that could help our city and better it,” Velasco told the council.
Some speakers pointed out that when adding in Cavazos’ benefits and other pay, including a pension from Phoenix he’s collecting, the city manager already makes nearly $800,000.
“That’s double the president of the United States of America,” said activist Madeleine Spencer. “I would prefer a full time City Council rather than paying more for a city manager. That would make a lot more sense.”
Councilman Sal Tinajero, the most vocal defender of the bonus, said he was disappointed by the council’s decision not to give Cavazos the extra money. Tinajero said Cavazos earned his pacycheck and bonus many times over by revising a previously gloomy budget forecast to instead show tens of millions of dollars in surpluses.
“If I brought you $54 million you’d be kissing me on the cheek,” Tinajero told the crowd of meeting attendees.
If Cavazos was disappointed by not getting the bonus, he didn’t show it. He was all smiles after the meeting and told reporters that he was “happy with the way things are going.”
“I’m very happy. I have a very positive reaction,” Cavazos said.
Council members also decided to form an ad-hoc committee that would put together criteria for evaluating the city manager’s performance, Cavazos and Tinajero said.
That decision likely speaks to concerns expressed by Councilwoman Michele Martinez, who said that Cavazos managed to turn the normal employer-employee dynamic on its head, defining for himself how much the bonus should be and what he did to earn it.