Paul Kitagaki Jr. / <252>Sacramento Bee file

Sacramento City Manager John Shirey details the new arena plan to the City Council in March 2013.

Editorial: Deal keeps a steady hand at Sacramento City Hall beyond strong-mayor vote

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014 - 12:00 am

It’s good that City Manager John Shirey and the City Council are making reasonable accommodations in case Sacramento voters change Shirey’s job description in November.

Under his old three-year contract, if the strong-mayor measure passes, Shirey could have chosen on his own to leave with a generous settlement – six months’ pay.

That escape clause was removed from the new contract that the City Council approved Tuesday night that keeps him in the job through at least next June 30.

If the measure is approved and many of his duties and powers get taken over by Mayor Kevin Johnson, Shirey does not automatically get the severance pay. Instead, he would receive what’s owed on his contract only if Johnson fires him or if he is dismissed “without cause” by the council. In return, he gets a 2 percent raise to his base salary and other benefits that bring his total annual compensation to a robust $364,712.

Shirey says he wants to see if he and Johnson can work together if there’s a new governance system and doesn’t want to disrupt City Hall by resigning immediately.

That’s commendable – and one less thing for voters to worry about. When they go to the polls Nov. 4, they will have plenty of arguments, pro and con, to consider on this significant change to the city charter.

Johnson, whose current term in office goes until December 2016, had been pushing for more power even before he became mayor. He was also the only “no” in an 8-1 vote to hire Shirey in August 2011. But their relationship has improved markedly since. Johnson made it a point to praise him Tuesday night and to say he wants Shirey to stay.

We also were not convinced that Shirey was the right pick, given the secrecy surrounding the hiring process and his track record at the California Redevelopment Association. It was a very important decision for the City Council because he was the city’s fifth city manager in less than six years.

He has met the challenge in many respects. With help from other top officials at City Hall, Shirey steered Sacramento through the recession without too many painful budget cuts, started long-overdue pension reforms and cemented the deal for a new downtown arena. For the most part, he has been accessible to the public and press, no small matter.

With continuing financial challenges and other major projects – a possible new soccer stadium and performing arts center – on the horizon, stability is important for City Hall.

Shirey has been a steady hand. It appears no matter what happens on the strong-mayor measure, he will be in his job long enough to ensure a smooth transition.

Read more articles by the Editorial Board

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