Sacramento Bee

Sacramento City Manager Howard Chan will no longer be able to unilaterally direct the City Council to consider giving him a raise.

The council voted Tuesday without discussion to change its Rules of Procedure in order to prevent the scenario which occurred last month, when the council broke state law in awarding a raise to Chan. The vote was unanimous with Councilman Eric Guerra, who originally proposed the change, absent.

Chan placed an item on the agenda on Dec. 12 for the council to vote to give him a raise, bringing his 400,000 salary to 420,000 including 420 hours of leave time that could be cashed out at his discretion. The council approved the raise, in a late night meeting before the holiday break, with Mayor Darrell Steinberg, Katie Valenzuela and Mai Vang abstaining.

But the vote occurred during a so-called special meeting, meaning it violated The Brown Act. Special meetings are less transparent because they require a shorter public notice period and no public comments. When The Sacramento Bee asked the city about the apparent violation, the city placed an item on the agenda to redo the raise vote Jan. 9.

The council on Jan. 9 tabled the raise, and placed an item on the next agenda to change the rules to prevent Chan and future city managers from placing the item on the agenda themselves.

“Whether it’s an actual or perceived conflict of interest is an important factor,” Guerra said at the time. “I’ve heard from my constituents we need a change.”

Prior to Tuesday’s vote, according to a city staff report, the council rules stated: “The city manager and city clerk shall develop the agenda for council meetings in consultation with the mayor and/or vice mayor.”

The new language will add: “…with the exception of agenda items involving the compensation of charter officers or any personnel that report to the council, which may only be brought forward with the initial approval of the mayor, or recommendation by a majority of the Personnel and Public Employees Committee.”

Chan is a charter officer, along with the city attorney, city auditor, city treasurer, city clerk and several others, meaning they report directly to the council.

The Personnel and Public Employees Committee is comprised currently of Katie Valenzuela, Caity Maple, Karina Talamantes and Lisa Kaplan. Maple, Talamantes and Kaplan voted in favor of Chan’s raise in December.

If Chan wants to continue to pursue the raise, Steinberg or the committee would need to place it on a future council agenda.

Chan, who makes more than Gov. Gavin Newsom, was the highest paid city manger in the state in 2022, partly due to cashing out his vacation and leave time, according to state controller data. While the largest California cities have a so-called strong mayor form of government, Sacramento is not the largest city with a weak mayor in the state. The city manager of San Jose, the biggest city in California with a weak mayor, made about $150,000 less in total pay than Chan in 2022.

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