Proposal to double city manager's severance pay a 'vote of confidence'

Thursday, August 9, 2012 | 7:02 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — The possible change in severance pay for City Manager Mike Matthes comes as a vote of confidence from the City Council at a time when a salary increase would be hard on the morale of many city employees, Mayor Bob McDavid said.

The doubled severance, which is subject to the council's approval at its Aug. 20 meeting, would place him in roughly the middle of the pack of city managers in comparable cities in Kansas and Missouri. 

The decision to change Matthes' severance package resulted from his annual review in April, McDavid said. The council considered giving Matthes a raise to show its approval of his work but chose not to do so. The increased severance from six to 12 months would have no immediate budget impact.

If the council approves the measure, Matthes would receive 12 months' severance pay if the council fires him or if he resigns by mutual agreement with the council. Matthes is paid $150,000 per year; he became city manager in May 2011.

City managers of cities with populations similar to Columbia have similar severance packages. Columbia had a population of 108,500 as of 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Here's a look at severance benefits for city managers in other cities:

  • Lawrence, Kan.: Population 88,727. David Corliss, who has been city manager since 2006, is paid $130,000 per year. His severance would amount to no less than three months' salary and no more than nine months' salary.
  • Lee's Summit: Population 91,668. Stephen Arbo, who has been city manager since 2008, is paid $161,160 per year. His severance would equal 18 months' salary.
  • Springfield: Population 160,000. Greg Burris, who has been city manager since 2008, is paid $202,209 per year. His severance would equal six months' salary.

  • Independence: Population 117,213. Robert Heacock, who has been city manager since 2004, is paid $203,528 per year. His severance would be equal to 12 months' salary.

Matthes' job security also improves with the change in his severance pay. McDavid said the average tenure among city managers nationwide is about five years, largely because election cycles bring turnover among council members. The severance pay change might give the council pause about removing the city manager as part of a political housecleaning.

The pay would be received as a lump sum unless otherwise agreed upon. No severance will be paid if Matthes voluntarily resigns or if he is removed from office because of a felony conviction.

Most city workers would receive a raise of 27 cents an hour, or $561,60 per year, under the budget Matthes proposed for fiscal 2013. Firefighters would get a 19.3-cent-per-hour raise.

Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.


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Mike Martin August 10, 2012 | 7:32 a.m.

Is this a re-written press release?

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