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Council and community members stand in front of council chamber desks to honor Michael Davenport, presenting Davenport with a photograph of himself with former President Obama.

HR report raises questions about city pay hikes; council honors Davenport and volunteers

on November 27, 2019

Richmond’s system for approving discretionary pay increases for city workers doing tasks outside their job descriptions is liberally applied and “not consistent” with other cities’ practices, interim City Manager Steven Falk said at Tuesday’s City Council meeting following a report on the issue.

The liberal approval of pay hikes by Human Resources and department supervisors may represent an effort to retain workers for the understaffed city, according to Falk’s comments to the council. Forty-eight Richmond employees currently receive pay differentials at a projected cost of almost $450,000 yearly, according to an agenda report accompanying Human Resources Department Director Lisa Stephenson’s presentation.

Councilmembers Nat Bates and Eduardo Martinez requested Tuesday’s report to address city workers’ perceptions that differentials are awarded unfairly. “I don’t want us to get into particular people or even amounts,” Martinez said. “What I want to get into is…how this process can be more equitable.”

Requests for increases undergo case-by-case review in which human resources analysts vet the rationales behind them, Stephenson said. But Tuesday’s discussion suggested that the generous approval of increases is an entrenched problem.

“About my second or third day here – I don’t even know the staff – I have people coming up to me saying, ‘I’d like a pay differential,’”  said Falk, who became interim City Manager in August.

“There’s a perception that the pay differentials are being levied in an unfair way,” Falk said.

Bates added, “There’s something wrong with a system that rewards a few at the expense of many. It cuts down, in our opinion, on morale.”

Richmond needs a class and compensation study to “reset” the system, Falk said. Such a study would cost between $250,000 and $300,000 and likely take a year to finish, according to an HR consultancy he met with, Falk said. “I don’t think you have a choice but to do this,” he added.

In other action at the November 26 council session, Richmond Rent Program Executive Director Nicholas Traylor, presented a report on the program’s work in Fiscal Year 2018-19. The program handles a host of landlord-tenant issues including rent control, evictions and habitability. Several landlords rose during the comment period to express frustration with the costs of participating in the program.

The city council honored Richmonder and DP Security Services President Michael Davenport for his contributions to the city, especially its youth. The council also recognized the volunteer group Point Molate Friends for their work supporting the maintenance of Point Molate Beach Park.

“I think of Richmond as the volunteer city,” Councilmember Martinez said. “We hope to get more staff…but in the meantime we need people like these people to help lift up the beauty of Richmond.”

Featured image: Councilmembers, Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors Chair John Gioia and community members honor Michael Davenport.

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