Community Commentary

COMMUNITY COMMENTARY: Encinitas interim city manager makes a nice gig if you can get it

In viewing the meagerly attended City Council on Feb. 1 — less than 20 people were in attendance — it was obvious that business as usual was on the agenda concerning a particular portion of this elected group.
All that was absent was a pep performance involving local high school bands and cheerleading squads to add to the orations embroiling the job performance that former and currently interim City Manager Phil Cotton was to receive.
Judging by the numerous accolades directed toward Mr. Cotton by three council members — e.g. Bond, Stocks and Gaspar — in defending various aspects of his somewhat contentious contract both past and present, one came away with the opinion that he was the most marvelous city manager ever, comparable to the invention of the wheel.
Known to Mayor Bond prior to the Tuesday date set for the meeting was the fact that Councilwoman Maggie Houlihan would not be able to attend such a significant discussion concerning Mr. Cotton due to a prior scheduled medical appointment. He decided in his what is rapidly becoming evident high-handed manner to conduct the meeting anyway thus eliminating a possible opposition vote.
After the “closed door” session was concluded but during the poorly attended “public portion” under the guise that the audience would be involved concerning the interim City Manager Phil Cotton’s salary, pension, vacation time and continuation in office controversy, Mayor Bond stated how elated he was that the public was being included and listened to in the process. What a sham as this couldn’t be further from reality.
According to City Attorney Glen Sabine, the decision had already been approved in the “closed session” by a majority of the council to give Mr. Cotton a satisfactory performance review.
The two public speakers who contested various aspects of the Mr. Cotton controversy obviously had no inclination concerning the futility of their oration and were put in an embarrassing position in their attempt to sway a council whose determination had already been “close door” voted upon.
The questioning of Mr. Sabine by Jerome Stocks regarding Mr. Cotton’s 27th paycheck at the end of 2009, which added to his eventual retirement salary tabulation, was both revealing and at the same time an abashment as Mr. Sabine was coaxed to admit that he knew for quite some time the particulars of the subject.
Concerning this past election with Mr. Stocks’ promotion and support for recently chosen Councilwoman Gaspar, former Mayor Dan Dalager was seemingly considered a liability and therefore expendable in being thrown to the wolves as it was almost a foregone conclusion that Mrs. Barth with her loyal supporters would receive at minimum the second total amount of votes.
Many of us had hoped that with a new face on the council openness and independence would somehow present itself. However it is very quickly becoming most evident that the former good-old-boy, e.g. Dan Dalager, has been replaced by the present good-new-girl, e.g. Kirstin Gaspar, involving council make-up in the continuation of a 3-2 voting block.
 When Mr. Stocks was unanimously voted down last year in attempting to get Mr. Cotton an 11 percent pay raise adding to his $198,723 salary, Mr. Cotton’s comment was that “he would not accept it.”
I now question why Mr. Cotton has not embodied the ethical action in turning down the 27th payment portion amount of $8,331 as an addition to his final salary used in calculating his monthly pension allowance.
In charting the numbers by actually resigning and then accepting the interim city manager position it has been “hugely” financially rewarding for Mr. Cotton.
Through 11 months his $15,000 salary will equal $165,000. Add on a monthly pension of $6,454, which equals $70,994, and the total is $235,994. That amount would have “only” equaled $182,160 during that 11-month period using previous $198,723 city manager salary as a base. The difference is $53,834. A nice gig if you can get it.

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1 comment

anonymous March 24, 2011 at 8:10 am

I watched the meeting from home. In any other type of business, Cotton would have been fired and/or made to pay back the money that he took outside of his temporary contract.

Council members and fellow Rotarians tried to explain how effective Cotton had been–so effective that he could go missing for 3 week periods while getting paid. As a compromise, Jim Bond suggested that the mayor should be contacted if Phil planned on disappearing again until his replacement is hired.

I interpret the self-determined, 3-week paid vacation differently. He was trying to tell us how little he did. I only regret that he is leaving with "a millionaire’s" pension for his "service."

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