The Anaheim City Council Tuesday night ratified City Manager Paul Emery’s employment contract in a split 3-2 vote, cementing Emery’s appointment as the city’s chief executive.
Mayor Tom Tait and Councilman James Vanderbilt voted no, with Tait criticizing some contract terms as too generous. Council members Kris Murray, Jordan Brandman and Lucille Kring voted for the contract.
The contract provides a one-year severance package, should the council fire Emery, and allows him to accrue up to 800 hours of vacation time, which is 200 hours above other management employees.
Emery’s base salary will be $290,000. That means if the council ousts Emery, he can take home a severance payment equal to his base salary plus whatever unused time off he’s accrued, a dollar figure that would no doubt be several hundreds of thousands.
And unused time off might be easy to accrue for Emery because another contract clause allows him to “establish an appropriate work schedule” with an acknowledgment that he “devotes a great deal of time outside the normal office hours to Anaheim.”
Vanderbilt motioned to halve Emery’s 12-month severance package after Tait expressed his concerns, but the council majority voted against the motion.
In a brief interview after Tuesday night’s council meeting, Emery declined comment on his contract provisions, but said that he’s “excited and looking forward to the opportunity” to be city manager. When asked about his priorities, Emery said they were listed on the city’s website and that “we’ll continue down that path.”
Such contract clauses regarding unused time off have become commonplace at municipalities across the region, resulting in a system that many have criticized as abusive. Rather than taking time off, which is the stated purpose of accruing vacation and sick time, the officials instead accrue hundreds, even thousands, of hours and then cash out massive checks.
And while Emery’s golden parachute is indeed thick, others have benefitted from even more generous provisions.
For example, in Santa Ana, former City Manager Dave Ream cashed out $230,366 in vacation and sick time alone. And former City Attorney Joe Fletcher cashed out nearly $192,000 under a contract clause that allowed him to backdate his banked unused time off 13 years prior to his actual hiring date. Along with his severance, Fletcher’s payout totaled nearly $334,000.
Emery has been Anaheim’s interim city manager since Feb. 26, 2014, following the quick succession of several city managers.
He’s presided over the Angels’ Stadium negotiations, which collapsed last year, and most recently was at the helm when the city struck a deal with Disneyland protecting the resort from a possible admissions tax for up to 45 years in exchange for $1.5 billion in park investments. His appointment as city manager was first announced after the Disneyland deal was approved at a marathon council meeting July 7 that ended after 1 a.m.
In addition to his severance, Tait said he had “fundamental disagreements” with Emery’s recommendations as city manager. In the past, Tait has clashed with Emery over his support for huge subsidies granted to the city’s business establishment.
Among the deals Tait has opposed but Emery recommended include the Disneyland agreement, room-tax subsidies for hoteliers, and a proposal to grant 155 acres of land around Angel Stadium to the Angels Baseball team owner for 66 years at a price of $66.
Tait has lambasted such subsidies as dangerous giveaways that meddle with free market economics and imperil the city’s financial future. Members of the council majority argue just the opposite, that such “public-private partnerships” are key to the city’s fiscal and economic prosperity.
According to a city news release, Emery joined the city as assistant city manager on Dec. 17, 2012. He served 11 years prior to joining Anaheim at the city of Huntington Beach, including several years as deputy city manager and a year as interim city administrator, the news release states.
From 1988 to 2001, he worked for Santa Ana, where he helped with employee bargaining groups, transportation capital projects, and worked with the public works department, among other duties, according to the news release.
Emery graduated from the University of California Davis, with a bachelor’s degree in political science, and later earned a masters degree in public administration from Cal State Fullerton, the news release states.