Montrose city manager candidates’ pay packages differ widely

The Montrose City Council agreed Thursday to a package of salary and benefits worth more than $170,000 as a “best and final offer” to make to its top candidate for city manager.

The package includes a base salary of $124,500, as well as a $4,500 annual car allowance and $600 per year for a cellphone, plus $10,000 for moving expenses.

The council voted to offer the same package to its third-choice candidate, who has similar education and work experience as the first choice, if the first and second choices for city manager reject offers, Mayor Kathy Ellis said.

The second-choice candidate’s salary and benefits package would total more than $149,000, including a base salary of $108,000 and $5,000 for moving expenses.

Explaining the difference between the first- and second-choice candidates’ proposed salary and benefits packages, Ellis said, “I do not believe our second candidate is worth the same amount as our first.”

A city-hired consultant will present the package to the top candidate today. Council members voted Thursday to give the candidate 48 hours to reply.

Before figures were discussed, council members Thomas Smits and Bill Patterson expressed concern that open-meeting laws may have been violated in the process of narrowing the city manager search.

Smits said the first-choice candidate was “given a price without my knowledge. You can call it what you want; I call it an offer. The candidate knew before I even knew, and to me that verges on a violation of open-meetings laws.”

However, City Attorney Russ Duree said the way the discussion happened over time, including a lack of quorum and a lack of contemporaneousness, meant no open-meeting laws were violated.

The council originally voted to offer city manager candidates a base salary ranging between $105,000 and $125,000. Ellis said the consultant told their first-choice candidate $122,000 as a starting point for negotiations, and the candidate countered with $124,500, as well as $15,000 for moving expenses and four weeks of vacation.

Smits questioned whether the larger salary and benefits package would fit into the city budget.

“I don’t feel Montrose can afford the salaries we’re talking about,” Patterson added. “The amount that came out of this exceeds our capacity that we can offer as a community.”

Ellis countered that a lower salary range would have netted “a much different set of candidates. Why would we put $125,000 out there if we didn’t mean it?”

Duree said once a candidate accepts an offer, the details of his or her contract will be negotiated. However, the figures voted on Thursday are essentially “carved in stone,” he said.


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