Unanimous approval of raise for City Manager sparks online opposition

By Jack Mayne

Lots of citizen complaints filled social media on Friday (April 5), following the Des Moines City Council increasing City Manager Michale Matthias’ annual salary to $199,000 a year, plus the ability to cash in extra sick leave and vacation.

Just before 5 p.m. on Friday, Mayor Matt Pina posted a three page news release (PDF file) supporting the pay increase and other changes in remuneration.

Resident (and 2019 council candidate) Anthony Martinelli was one of several who wrote on the Des Moines Community Group on Facebook that:

“The (Des Moines city) council voted unanimously (7 to 0) last night (Thursday, April 4) to raise the city manager’s salary from $182,000 to $199,000 (over triple the average household income). With this vote the city manager has seen a $45,000 a year raise in a little over 2.5 years.”

That increase in salary of 8 percent, said Martinelli, was in addition to allowing “for an increase of 180 hours available to be cashed out annually from the City Manager’s existing sick leave bank and vacation bank.” He said Matthias has 300 hours of sick leave and vacation leave.

For and against
Others questioned the increase, but at least one person defended the pay and allowances for Matthias as part of doing business in the current economy.

Amber Kahmylie wrote:

“Anyone who pays attention to this (Facebook) group knows things have been very active this morning and many people have questions about the councils recent choices. But instead of addressing their constituents head-on and answering our questions they are dormant and quiet the only person who seems to be trying to bring Clarity to this very unsettling situation is Bonnie Gidlund Wilkins, who is doing amazing trying to help us and thank you addressing this especially when those who made this choices choose to stay silent?”

Doreen Harper said this about the raise:

“Since last night’s CC meeting was not in council chambers, unfortunately there wasn’t a way to watch it on Channel 21. Perhaps the next time this situation occurs, broadcasting via Facebook Live will result in more transparency and inclusivity with the community.”

Supporting the increase for Matthias was Debby Strayer, who wrote:

“Sure is a lot of complaining with people who have little understanding of our political structure. In order to keep and retain quality management you need to pay competitive wages. You do a comparison of similar organizations or communities. I am on several boards and that is what we do when we at looking at pay rates for our management. Just looking at the pay compared with what we think is fair isn’t looking at what it is in a competitive job market.”

City defends increase
“These findings were published prior to Council’s action to increase the City Manager salary,” said the city news release. “The contract amendment with supporting information, was published as an agenda item, posted on the city’s webpage and added to the city’s local notice boards.

The city said it has information “to give you an idea of what Michael and his team have accomplished over the last year.”:

  • Managed a sustainable, solvent budget with appropriate contingency.
  • Raised our legal contingency requirement to the national standard per City Council action.

The Des Moines’ release also noted that the city has “received a significant bond rating upgrade as a result of establishing and managing sustainable finances. Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s both reviewed our financial practices and awarded the City these upgrades.

“We also received the Government Finance Officers Association award for our Comprehensive Annual Financial Reporting.

The city news release said that Des Moines “realized savings of over $500,000 as a result of the upgrades and refinancing of outstanding 2008 bonds and new bonds for the North Marina Bulkhead.

Here’s more from the city’s release:

Human Services increase
The Des Moines City Council “was able to increase our human services allocations to community organizations providing additional resources for our residents in need.

A Utility Tax Audit was initiated to ensure the City is receiving the appropriate revenues generated by the Des Moines Creek Business Park.”

The Waterland City
The city said the “administration leadership transition and succession planning has established excellent Executive Team.”

“Hired and promoted a number of critical staff and developed an appropriate salary structure to attract and retain these talented professionals.

“Established a Building Official in Training Program to hire ahead based on succession planning for the building department.

“Partnered with Wesley for management of the Senior Services Center. Authorized Professional Development for a number of managers, supervisors, planners and police to work positively on communication strategies.

“Implemented a program to address succession planning since approximately 30 percent of the staff are qualified to retire.”Created a new Public Records Analyst position to comply with City legal requirements and response to public requests.

Staff Engagement
Des Moines, said the city news release, “concluded labor agreements with Teamsters, non-represented and exempt employees.” Staff convenes “regular meetings of executive team and senior staff for cross department collaborations and efficiencies.

Developed a team approach improving employee morale and engagement which resulted in an increase in overall staff productivity.”

“Implemented best practice procedures for cash handling, employee time reporting, and use of staff time.”

At the Senior Activity Center, “in partnership with Wesley, made capital improvements based on input from the Senior Services Advisory Committee.

Made structural and safety improvements at the Field House.

Council meetings
Expanded use of Administration Report for providing information, education and more in-depth awareness of City functions and actions to City Council. Implemented enhanced presentations to better communicate the depth of City issues with visual support.”

The Waterland City
“Public Safety and Emergency Management

“Fully funded and staffed our Accredited Police Department with an Officer in Training

“Program to eliminate gaps in service and address attrition and transition.

“Developed a Redondo vertically integrated substation for multiple levels of law enforcement (FBI, DEA, US Marshals and other Jurisdictions) to enhance cooperation and coordination in addressing violent crimes and gang activity. Authorized additional resources for that purpose. This substation serves as a national model to include agencies from Federal down to Local Government.

“Increased participation in the Regional Violent Crimes Task Force. Established a Des Moines Street Crimes Unit.

“Worked with the Police Chief to secure access to the MaST building for an additional substation and Redondo presence.

“Established mandatory “active shooter training” for all city employees. Established Emergency Management Director Position to emphasize local and regional emergency preparedness.

“Partnered with Des Moines Police Foundation and other jurisdictions to acquire a K9 Unit for our Police Department.

Community Engagement
“Increased communication and social media expansion of information from City and Police.

“(City Manager) Tours with residents, developers and other public agencies, including Highline College leadership, Board of Trustee members and others with interest in the City.

“Frequently attends, with Council and staff, Community Events.

“(City Manager) Provides leadership on this topic, within Des Moines and the surrounding community, by advocating for our residents who are experiencing impacts from Sea-Tac Airport.

“Active leadership representation on StART (Sea-Tac Airport Stakeholders Roundtable), Des Moines Aviation Advisory Committee, UW Ultra-fine Particle Technical Advisory Committee, Budget Proviso Baseline Airport Impact Advisory Committee, with notable involvement and progress addressing the Sustainable Airport Master Plan (SAMP).

“Recruited national consultants, hired through an inter-local agreement and with cooperation from neighboring cities to address SAMP scoping and comments representing the City from our SEPA officials.”


11 Responses to “Unanimous approval of raise for City Manager sparks online opposition”
  1. Anthony Martinelli says:

    I just want to clarify that I think Mr. Matthias has done a good job, and his role undeniably requires a massive amount of work and expertise. The issue here is that $46,000 (30%) is far too much of a raise in just 2.5 years, especially considering taxes and fees in our city have continued to rise. Our city manager now makes almost $30,000 a year more than our governor ($171,000) and U.S. senators ($174,000), and around $75,000 more than the national average for his position ($125,000).

    Unfortunately the council approved such a considerable raise without first seeking public input or giving them reasonable notice that such a vote was going to occur. In addition, the meeting took place this week outside of city hall, and there was no live stream of the video online or on channel 21 as their normally is. The city published a press release regarding the raise, but they did so the following day and only after residents started asking questions (the release starts by stating “Thank you for your questions about City Manager Michael Matthias’ salary upgrade.”). In the future I think we would all be better off if the city made more of an effort to inform citizens about these type of votes prior to them taking place.

    • Judi Armer says:

      I think the raise is quite high, realize our city seems to be in the pink but—.
      Could we do something with our roads & help our downtown grow a bit. I love Des Moines, love living here but have seen so many small businesses go to ground due to high rent or lack of city support. I am excited about the Theater & hopefully the Masonic building changes.
      Maybe we need to look ahead & not use all we have on salaries. I feel that this salary is high but what is done is done. Let’s go forward & make this little city truly great.

  2. Beverly says:

    holy hell. our city has only 31,000 people our CM should NOT and I say again NOT be receiving $200k a year.

    thank you dearly to Anthony and others who are bringing attention to issues like these. we need transparency!!

  3. Sue Padden says:

    Im pretty certain Michael wrote this article, not Bonnie Wilkins. His City hall silo is getting bigger and taller. This article is a
    direct response to his failure and the city councils who spread false accusations regarding the work of an outstanding employee whose write up was also in today’s Waterland blog.

  4. Doreen Harper says:

    Hey Jack Mayne,
    I didn’t say anything about opposing or supporting the City Manager’s raise. All I did was point out the inability of being able to tune in on the usual Channel 21 because of the location change and offering a solution for the next time. I would appreciate it if you wouldn’t make assumptions with my words. My message to the city council and staff has always been about transparency and it will continue to be. Don’t interpret my message with your own please.

    • Jack Mayne says:

      Not my intent to rewrite your intent. My apologies for any transgression. I sm trying very hard to remain neutral and only to report what is happening. If I violated your comments, again I apologize”

      • Doreen Harper says:

        Thank you Jack Mayne. I appreciate your apology.

      • Patrick Nardo says:

        Jack Mayne, sir; I read, and look forward to your writings in the blog, often enjoying the learning within. Much of what you put forward is educational for those of us who do not get around as much as once, and learn from you. Now, I do not have an award or trophy for the man you just showed yourself to be, you have earned admiration beyond your last article in the blog.

        As for Michael Matthias, we are happy to see this great provider of enrichment to our community of Des Moines, along with a leadership long since forgotten by his predecessors. Our city coffers are now plentiful and we have seen many accomplishments since Michael attained the position of City Manager. As constituents, had we had the opportunity to vote for this pay raise, without a doubt, we would have voted in favor. It is, to me, sad to see this good man challenged by those who can’t possibly realize the long hours and dedication to our city, and who would very likely fall short of Mr. Matthias’ accomplishments. Under his management, we also have one of the best “teamworking” council in my 40 year memory of loving and living in this City of Des Moines. If anything should be said of or to our city manager, it should be “THANK YOU SIR”. This then, is my honest opinion.

  5. Jared Lyle says:

    The Highline School District superintendent makes 284,000 a year. Should we all be outraged?? I appreciate the City paying what is required to have a capable executive.

    • Larry says:

      The superintendent oversees 32 schools and 2,000 employees. comparing that to a city manager froma small town like des moines is sosilly

  6. Patrick Nardo says:

    We are really pleased with the council’s unanimous decision to raise Michaels Mathias’s salary. He has done a remarkable job of “coaching” you as a council team to the level of prosperity that we enjoy today. Living and loving being a resident in Des Moines for 40 years, we have seen many up and downs, until now, we have a strongly cohesive council that coordinates and presents a unified purpose of economic perpetuation.
    Our votes are always well measured, and includes lots of concentration on trust, capability, qualifications, and most importantly, love of this city. Once in elected office we trust each member of council to take actions that, if we were as well informed as they become in office, we would make the same decisions. In short, we voted for these seven council members to make the many decisions because we voted for and trusted them to do just that. This goes to pure faith.
    Michael Matthias, our honorable City Manager was recently unanimously granted what to some, may appear to be an unwarranted and exceedingly generous salary increase, to $200,000. Well, we need to weigh this against our previous leaning toward bankruptcy with around a two million dollar “shortfall”. Our City was on the brink of annexation, maybe by Kent, our credit rating was so low that borrowing was not a serious option.
    Des Moines is not an “average city” and has seen a dramatic recovery from failure, thanks to the endeavors of Michael Matthias, and his uncanny ability to redirect our downhill skidding. Our credit rating has risen, our budget is healthy, and we have returned to the security of a well manned police presence.
    My evaluation may not be the best one here, but as a population of 31,000 with $200,000 for a highly qualified manager, our expense is only $6.45 a year. Now, I do not want, nor do I expect council members to call me and ask, “what shall I do now?” We voted for you to make these decisions, now make them! If any comments should be made to this City Manager, Michael Matthias, it should begin with “Thank you, SIR”!

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