AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) – Aurora City Council awarded three of its four appointees performance bonuses earlier this year in the midst of deep budget cuts that included restricting library hours, closing city pools and cutting city jobs.
“I’m extremely surprised at this. The timing is amazing to me,” said Randy Rester, who leads the Aurora Firefighters Union.
Rester said Aurora’s 300 firefighters agreed to pay and benefit concessions to assist the city with its budget problems, but he said he wasn’t aware that the city was simultaneously awarding bonuses to top administrators.
“I feel the people in the city have been betrayed,” Rester said. “They’re not practicing what they’re preaching.”
The CBS4 investigation found that Aurora City Council has four apppointees: the city manager, city attorney, presiding municipal judge and court administrator. The city manager was the only one who did not receive a bonus because he only began working for Aurora late last year.
The bonuses handed out in 2011 were based on 2010 job performance. The awards were decided on in City Council executive session and were not made public as they are judged to be personnel issues.
Chief Municipal Judge Richard Weinberg, who made $130,666 last year plus another $10,613 in deferred compensation, received a $3,920 performance award. Court Administrator Zelda Deboyes, who makes $134, 858 per year and receives $17,697 in deferred compensation, was given a $5,394 performance award. Aurora City Council gave city attorney Charlie Richardson a $7,934 performance award in addition to his $158,679 annual salary and $22,000 in annual deferred compensation.
All three appointees have had their annual salaries frozen since 2009 and did not receive bonuses in 2009 or 2010.
Richardson told CBS4 his bonus was justified in part by his efforts last year in a patent infringement case, which saved the city an estimated $750,000. Richardson has been with the Aurora city attorney’s office since 1976.
“These really are key people in our organization,” Councilmember Bob Broom said. “The productivity is up a lot and that’s because of good leadership, so they need to be rewarded for that. We just felt it was important to motivate them to do a good job and reward them for it.”
Broom said the amount of the bonuses pales in comparison to the cost of shopping around to replace good employees who leave for better pay and benefits elsewhere.
Kim Stuart, communications director for the city of Aurora, told CBS4 the bonuses were justified, even in these budget slashing times.
“None of them has received salary increases since 2008 and the average 4 percent one-time payment to them this year is a reasonable acknowledgment of their contributions.”
But with Aurora city employees taking furlough days, street and park maintenance being deferred, and 200 city jobs eliminated, bonuses are a sore subject.
“You lead by example, and I’m not seeing a leader here,” Rester said. “You can’t have it both ways. If it’s that bad, these people shouldn’t be getting bonuses.”
View the compensation history of three Aurora City Council appointees