Scottsdale leaders who criticized portions of City Manager Jan Dolan’s new compensation package have retreated.
City Councilman Bob Littlefield withdrew his request late Thursday to reconsider the 5-2 council vote on May 26 endorsing Dolan’s heftier package because of what he called a "poison pill" provision. That provision blocked the new City Council from firing her within 90 business days of a general or city election.
Dolan agreed to strike that provision. She wrote a letter "instructing’’ human resources officials to delete the provision.
Littlefield and at least two council memberselect said that provision violated the city’s charter, making it illegal.
Incoming Council members Jim Lane, Kevin Osterman and Betty Drake, along with Littlefield, said Dolan’s action resolves the issue.
But Dan Barr, a First Amendment attorney with the law firm Brown & Bain in Phoenix who also acts as the Tribune’s attorney, said contract law does not permit a contract to be altered without both parties consent.
"Randy Johnson doesn’t get to say you know, ‘I revoke part of my contract,’ " Barr said.
Dolan, hired in August 2000, is not an elected official and does not have voting authority. She cannot unilaterally make a decision without the issue going back before a council for another vote, Barr said.
"Actually we ended up dealing with it in a public forum on the front page of the newspaper," Councilman-elect Kevin Osterman said jokingly.
"The only place you can take legal action is in a public meeting and I would think amending a contract is legal action," Barr said. "This sounds so entirely screwed up. Why are they even behaving this way?
"I mean, it’s so easy if Jan Dolan wants to remove a portion of her contract she just goes before the City Council and says, ‘I want to remove this term of the contract,’ and they say, ‘OK, fine,’ and they do it."
Scottsdale City Attorney Joe Bertoldo has a different legal opinion.
"It’s her contract. It’s contract rights. If she were adding to her contract that would be a different thing. That would have to go back to council," Bertoldo said. "But she’s subtracting from her contract. Unless the council really wants to discuss that . . . I think it’s a dead issue."
Dolan’s package includes a base pay raise to $162,000 from $153,941 that will remain.
Some benefits trump those of other city managers in the Valley’s two biggest cities, Phoenix and Mesa. However, Scottsdale human resources general manager Neal Shearer, contended Dolan’s previous package was not competitive with others in the Valley.
Neither Dolan nor Shearer returned several phone calls to their offices by the Tribune this week regarding the matter.
Dolan receives two hours off per day or five total per week, $650 in a monthly car allowance and nine months severance.
In comparison, Phoenix City Manger Frank Fairbanks gets three months severance and $600 in car allowance and Mesa City Manager Mike Hutchinson gets no severance and $150 per month. Populations in those cities are double to six times greater than Scottsdale.
"I don’t have a sense that we need to bring this up right now. We’ve got much bigger fish to fry," Osterman said about Dolan’s severance, over which he previously expressed concern.
Fairbanks and Hutchinson also do not get time off during business hours. Littlefield said he expects Scottsdale’s attorney to also make it clear in Dolan’s contract that she cannot cash unused hours out at the end of a year.
"I think we had some inkling . . . that it was more than just competitive," said Lane, adding he, too, wants to move on. "It was a decision by the prior council to make and within their realm of authority to make. And it’s something we live with."
Councilwoman-elect Betty Drake said she is pleased.
"I’m satisfied with the way things are turning out and we’ll have a chance to let her do her job and re-evaluate next year during the normal cycle," Drake said.
The outgoing council approved Dolan’s package at its last meeting. The incoming council, which will include four freshman, will be sworn in Tuesday. Initially all four wanted a chance to review Dolan’s package.
"Am I happy with the whole thing? No," Lane said, adding that he didn’t think the council members who voted for the package are either. "This was to try to put this to rest."