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Interim city manager takes paid vacation despite contract terms

ENCINITAS — The interim city manager was absent for three weeks over two months in November and December despite the fact that his contract does not allow for paid vacation time.
City Council voted June 23 to offer departing City Manager Phil Cotton a temporary contract as interim city manager. In late May, Cotton, 61, submitted his resignation, saying he was ready to retire after 12 years with the city. His last day was scheduled to be July 6.
Cotton took several weeks off after his scheduled retirement date but returned as interim manager in early August to resume his duties as outlined in a new contract.
The council offered Cotton a three-month, temporary contract with three, one-month extensions. All three contract extensions were activated and the council is expected to announce a new city permanent city manager this month.
According to the terms of Cotton’s contract, he receives $15,000 per month. The temporary interim manager’s contract does not include any pension payments, health care insurance or vacation accrual, or other items that Cotton had under his previous contract as city manager.
However, according to an e-mail sent from Cotton to some city staff and the council, he took one week off during November. On Oct. 28 at 4:50 p.m. he sent an e-mail stating in part, “I will be out of the office next week (Nov 1st through 5th). During my absence Larry Watt will be acting in my capacity and our Deputy City Manager, Richard Phillips will be handling the daily business of the City Managers Office.”
City Hall was closed the following day. According to Tom Beckord, the city’s human resources director, Cotton has received the same amount of pay on a bi-weekly basis despite being out of the office.
On Dec. 20, at 6:30 p.m., Cotton sent a similar e-mail stating that he would be out of the office from Dec. 21 through Dec. 31, a day City Hall was closed. His e-mail read in part, “I will be available via phone, or e-mail. The Deputy City Manager will be available at City Hall, and all Departments have coverage throughout the Holiday period.” He did not state where he was going or the purpose of his absence in either case. Calls to Cotton were not returned.
According to city officials, there is no mechanism in place to approve vacation time or sick leave requests for the city manager, or the interim city manager. Beckford said that Cotton’s current contract “doesn’t provide for particular vacation time, but it gives him a reasonable time off.”
The amount of time that is “reasonable” is not defined in the current contract that was negotiated by City Attorney Glenn Sabine. Calls to Sabine were also not returned.
Cotton is officially retired from his former post where he received $198,720 a year as city manager. After July 6, he became eligible to receive a pension. Cotton already receives a military pension for his 21 years in the Marines.


coastalesq January 7, 2011 at 10:43 am

So instead of dealing with the issue of two local businesses being forced to close their doors because of city staff’s inability to adapt to new green building styles (the two yurts at Lemongrass and Yoga Swami), our city manager is breaking his gravy-train contract obligations and failing his fiduciary duties toward the city.

Encinitasfam23 January 8, 2011 at 12:19 am

He has done great things for our city and we should all be thankful. There is a reason he held this position for so long and then was brought back as the interim. He deserves every penny as most days he is the first one there and the last to leave.

Jack Knows S January 8, 2011 at 7:50 am

I want some of that lushes free flowing Government Tit money. Yum, Yum… I got to get me some. Working for the birds, not for me….I’m going government all the way and let the taxpayers pay for my $235k a year in pension payments. Aint communism great?!!!

anonymous January 10, 2011 at 6:49 pm

This is the same attitude that one can find in the Planning Department and many other areas that are there to "serve" Encinitas residents. How many times have I heard Encinitas citizens call City Hall the "country club?"

In most private companies these days, there are the worst aspects of being an hourly employee and an exempt employee since people are working outragous hours and are often expected to also have a set schedule on top of the extra time with no overtime.

I congratulate Mr. Cotton on finding a way to get the best aspects of an hourly, worker, yet to steal the vacation time of an exempt employee. Great example Phil Cotton! No wonder we see the problems that we do in City Hall. At least he left someone in charge and stole time out in the open. The others just expect for citizens to magically know their vacation schedules and keep coming back.

RealEncinitas January 11, 2011 at 12:07 pm

I wanted to point out that the single positive comment from Encinitasfam23 seems to indicate that this is a City employee or family member speaking since the rest of us don’t know what time Mr. Cotton comes in to work or leaves.

Also, the amount of money that Mr. Cotton is reported to earn as a contract employee in this article, is vastly greater than what he told the Union Tribune a few months ago when they ran an investigative series on the pay of local city managers.

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