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Council split on city administrator's contract

The new three-year contract approved Monday for city administrator Peter Herlofsky does not sit well with the entire Farmington City Council.

The contract guarantees $5,000 raises for Herlofsky in 2010, 2011 and 2012, which would bring his 2012 salary to $135,000. Herlofsky has a salary of $120,000 for 2009. The new contract also increases his annual leave accrual rate from 16 to 24 hours each month.

Three of the five council members approved the contract. But council members Julie May and Steve Wilson did not feel it was justified.

Before the regular meeting Monday, council members met in a closed session to conduct a performance review of Herlofsky. References made by council members during the meeting indicated the administrator's marks hit both strengths and weaknesses, though mayor Todd Larson noted, "by far, there were more positives than negatives."

May acknowledged she felt good about what came out of the review process, but argued that a raise of $5,000 annually over the next three years was simply too much for taxpayers to bear in today's uncertain economy.

"Many residents have been laid off or had their hours cut, including our city staff," she said. "We must show respect to the taxpayers, while at the same time showing respect for those who work for the city.... I would hope he understands that while we would all like to get a raise or more time off, it just isn't prudent right now."

But council member Christy Jo Fogarty said the current economic situation is not a reason to reject the contract. She, along with council member Terry Donnelly, negotiated the contract terms. Fogarty contended the economy may well turn around before 2010. She also pointed out that Herlofsky did not take a raise in 2009, and that if necessary, she felt he would take a hit to his own salary again to help the city maintain its budget goals.

Wilson agreed with May's assessment, but for slightly different reasons. He said most other city employees take 2 to 2.75 percent raises annually, and pointed out that hours have been cut for all city staff for the coming summer in order to save the city some money.

"I do think that raise should be a little more consistent with what is happening with other folks," Wilson said. "We do have to look at the economy as a whole when looking at the situation."

Herlofsky first came to Farmington in May, 2006. Wilson argued then against the raises built in to the original contract. Herlofsky was paid a salary of $100,000 for the first six months of his employment, then received a $5,000 increase. On the one-year anniversary of his employment, he received a $10,000 increase, followed by another $10,000 increase on his second anniversary for an annual salary of $120,000 for his third year of employment.

The council discussed the idea of doing an annual contract for Herlofsky, but Donnelly pointed out that having a long term contract not only ensures continuity in the position and in the city leadership, but that it prevents Herlofsky from lobbying for more money if the economy changes for the better.

The contract was passed on a 3-2 vote with Wilson and May casting the dissenting votes.

However, if the economy does not improve and more pay cuts are needed to balance the city's budget, Larson said he will ask Herlofsky to forego some of that pay increase.