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City commission approves raises for City Auditor and City Clerk, gets bad news about Thelma Boltin Center

BY JENNIFER CABRERA

At the April 14 General Policy Committee meeting, Gainesville City Commissioners considered their performance evaluations of two charter officers for Fiscal Year 2021 and decided to give City Clerk Omichele Gainey a 12.5% raise and give City Auditor Ginger Bigbie a 2.5% raise.

Acting Human Resources Director Laura Graetz explained that the other four charter officers are interim and do not receive an annual performance evaluation, so only those two were evaluated. 

Bigbie’s overall performance rating was 4.89 out of 5, and Gainey’s was 4.83. Commissioners Desmon Duncan-Walker and Adrian Hayes-Santos rated both charter officers as “Exemplary” (Duncan-Walker rated both at 4.83, while Hayes-Santos rated Bigbie at 4.5 and Gainey at 4.17) while Mayor Lauren Poe and Commissioners David Arreola, Reina Saco, and Harvey Ward all rated them both “Superior” (5). Commissioner Cynthia Chestnut did not rate them because she is new to the commission.

Graetz said the budgeted raise was 2.5%. Bigbie currently makes $167,700, and a 2.5% increase would put her at $171,892.50. Gainey currently makes $131,736.67, and a 2.5% raise would put her at $135,030.09. The raises are retroactive to January 10, 2022.

Arreola made a motion to offer an additional 10% salary increase to Gainey, on top of the 2.5% merit increase, because the commission has expanded the duties of her office. That would put her at $148,203.76. Poe said he wasn’t ready for a motion, so it was withdrawn.

Chestnut asked about the new responsibilities, and Graetz said that Gainey “took on some additional duties around Policy Oversight and Administration, so all of the policy research interns that are part of the commission’s office, the research that they do, and moving those various policies forward, was something that was new and added to the clerk’s duties about 2 years ago.” There was some discussion about when the duties were added, and they agreed that it happened in April of 2019. 

Chestnut said she had “a real problem” with the 10% increase in salary because she thought the policy function should fall under the City Manager, not the City Clerk. She said she would look at that in the future “because I think it is inappropriately placed.”

Hayes-Santos said the commission routinely creates new departments that increase the responsibilities of charter officers and said he thought the clerk’s base salary was fair: “I don’t believe that we need to do a 10% increase.”

Arreola said the City Clerk is still underpaid, and “we have to get this position up to a midpoint.” However, Gainey received a $27,400 raise last year, a 27.4% increase, specifically to bring her pay to the midpoint.

Arreola made a motion to accept the merit increases and add an additional 10% for Gainey. Arreola said that he thought he remembered that Gainey had asked for a 14% increase the previous year, so his 10% proposal was in response to that. Graetz said that Gainey had requested 15% this year. Saco said, “So 10 is well under that.” Graetz also said Gainey had received a “slight increase” in her pay since her last raise as a reward for achieving a certification. Based on the amounts presented in this meeting and last year’s meeting, that amount was $4,336.67, about 3.4% of her pay at the time.

Saco said the 10% raise would be $13,000, “which is not an insignificant amount of money. But the way I’m looking at it is, is that $13,000 worth losing a charter, because we came close to that once [when Gainey resigned and then rescinded her resignation a week later]… I’m not a fan of starting over… I think it would be far more expensive to the City and to our neighbors to suddenly scramble for an interim and then find a replacement… I think she does excellent work… but I also think it’s going to be cheaper in the long run to do this.”

Poe said, “Pay equity starts with us. We can’t expect it from the rest of our organization unless we model it with the six people that we have direct authority over… [The policy research position] is a significant addition to the responsibilities and duties of a charter officer that were not in the job description and were added to her responsibilities after the fact. I think a 10% increase is modest for the amount of work that she’s expected to oversee.”

Hayes-Santos said they should remove the car allowance from all the charter officer contracts and put that amount into their base pay. “There’s no reason we should be subsidizing an automobile.” That was added to the motion.

Hayes-Santos also pointed out that last year’s raise brought the Clerk in line with peers, “so that’s a significant raise in just two years, probably getting close to 40% increase in two years’ time. That’s significant.” 

Chestnut added, “I don’t think we should raise somebody’s salary, or say that we have to raise it, out of a fear of them leaving… That can’t be the basis of a decision. There are always qualified people to be found… 10% is excessive. I think a 27% raise, which was last year, is excessive… People are out here struggling, and we’re up here talking about giving a raise of this nature because you think somebody will leave? I don’t think we should operate on that level, not at all.”

Saco said, “I’m not responding to a threat of someone leaving… It’s not a city commission thing; it’s not a Gainesville thing; it’s a national thing of—there is just a vacuum of people, qualified and unqualified… This is not the time I want to go look for someone to fill this role.”

The vote on the 10% increase for the Clerk was 4-2, with Hayes-Santos and Chestnut in dissent and Duncan-Walker absent.

The vote was unanimous on the 2.5% merit increase for both charter officers.

Thelma Boltin Center

The Thelma Boltin Center, which was built in 1942 and renovated by the City of Gainesville in 1999, was approved for a major renovation in 2019, but the City has learned that it is no longer structurally sound. Part of the roof is currently collapsed, there is termite damage, and the construction methods when the building was originally constructed were not as robust as they are now. The City is currently spending $5,000 per month to shore up the roof. A new building, which could include a modern performance space plus a second multipurpose space, would be more energy-efficient and would provide better access to programs and activities.

Rendering of one design idea for a new Thelma Boltin Center

Hayes-Santos made a motion to have staff place the building on the next Historic Preservation Board agenda to get their feedback and to also get feedback from residents of the Duck Pond area on replacing the building. Interim City Manager Cynthia Curry confirmed that she would be able to put out a Request for Proposal for a design for a new building after those meetings without needing to come back to the city commission. The motion, which passed unanimously, also included a request to staff to come back with a cost estimate for lighting the Possum Creek skate park, along with funding sources for the lighting.

  • Ridiculous handling of the citizens of Gainesville’s money. Saco is a total loon!
    There are thousands of educated and extremely hard working tax payers in this screwed up town who are making a fraction of these salaries that they are so casually tossing about.

    • For Saco, I’m sure it’s some combination of black reparations and her pretending she’s living out her dream of looting a Macy’s or Saks Fifth Avenue with Poe and the other Antifas.

  • They think operate like the 3% ruling class of commie countries. Quote “Hayes-Santos said the commission routinely creates new departments that increase the responsibilities of charter officers” — right, to make their jobs more secure “so they won’t leave”. Tack on car allowances, and it’s like Cuba and N Korea.

  • Welcome to the Peoples Republic of Gainesville in the Age of Idiocracy.

  • Why is that woman in the photo still wearing a mask?
    To hide her face. —That’s a lot of money they are paying
    Those people…can they fix the potholes? Can they
    Get the panhandlers out of the medians and off the sides of the road? That interim city manager should direct law enforcement that there should be zero
    Tolerance for panhandlers in the medians and
    Vagrants cannot store their mounds of crap on the
    Sidewalk. They need to make a workforce comprised
    Of jail inmate work release and Grace marketplace
    Benefit recipients to clean up the city of fast food trash,
    Beer cans, discarded facial masks so GNV is clean
    And green. We can talk about giving city workers
    Raises after they implement the “ don’t be a panhandler,
    Be a canhandler” program.

  • No sane person would work in one of the chartered positions for anything less than market rate + 25%.

  • And how do you spend $5,000/month to “shore up a roof” anyway? Who’s getting the $5,000/month to “shore up” a roof?($60,000/year band-aid for a little used building)

  • How do you manage a has been Cash Cow ( GRU) with a 25% Debt Burden ? Into the ground for sure and yet the Bankrupt Comissioners are still in Denial and Stuck On Stupid .They are spending money they don’t have.

  • Did Gainey ever get her college degree? It was a requirement in the job description when she was hired, but the commission still hired her without it.

  • Despite just celebrating Earth Day these commissioners put their full idiotic hypocrisy out there for all to see…they sure do love burning through the green.

    Always easy when it’s someone else’s money.

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