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After weeks of public outcry and debate over whether the Santa Ana City Council should grant City Manager David Cavazos a bonus, council members Tuesday night decided to give him a 1.25 percent salary raise.
The raise, which amounts to $3,937.50 bump to his base salary of $315,000, is initially a significantly smaller amount than the one-time 5 percent, or $15,750, bonus Cavazos was seeking last month.
Council members were ready to give him the larger raise, but backpedaled after media scrutiny and backlash from residents.
Cavazos is already one of the highest paid public employees in the state. In 2013, the city hired him away from Phoenix and gave him a compensation package that, along with $315,000 base pay and other benefits, amounts to over $500,000 annually.
On top of that, he is also collecting a $235,863 pension from the city of Phoenix, according to the Arizona Republic, though he told the newspaper about half of that would go to his ex-wife.
The raise and employment contract amendment council members approved last night for Cavazos is “anticipated” to be offset by a reduction in a medical retirement benefit, according to a city staff report. Other executive managers also have the option to trade in the subsidy contribution for a raise, and Cavazos says he’s just asking to be treated the same.
The vote to approve the raise was 4-2, with Councilwoman Michele Martinez and Mayor Miguel Pulido voting no. Council members Sal Tinajero, Roman Reyna, Angelica Amezcua and Vincent Sarmiento voted yes, and Councilman David Benavides was absent.
Martinez and Pulido said they objected to the raise because council members didn’t have a chance to discuss it during recent closed-door performance evaluations.
Martinez asked to postpone the raise and discuss it in closed session, but City Attorney Sonia Carvalho said that by law discussions regarding contract terms must be held in public.
Cavazos shook his head as Martinez was voicing her objections. He then told the council his contract already calls for the city manager to get the same benefits granted to the rest of the executive management team.
“That’s all I’m asking for. I’m not asking for anything else,” Cavazos told the council.