07/27/04 — Manager says longevity pay OK'd in spite of clause in his contract

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Manager says longevity pay OK'd in spite of clause in his contract

By Barbara Arntsen
Published in News on July 27, 2004 2:02 PM

Goldsboro's city manager receives longevity pay even though his employment contract, signed 18 years ago, specified that he would not get it. The manager, Richard Slozak, says he is entitled to it because the City Council approved it the year after the contract was signed.

When Slozak was promoted to city manager in 1986, he signed a contract that stated, "Longevity pay -- Slozak shall not be entitled."

"That was just for the first year," Slozak says. "After that, I told the council that I wanted my longevity back." He said the council agreed.

There is no written amendment to the contract, but Slozak said he was directed by a previous council to just "put it back in the budget." Since then, annual city budgets -- which are reviewed and approved by the council -- have included his longevity pay. It is not shown specifically as his but is included in a budget line for longevity for every employee in the manager's office.

A review of the council minutes for the first six months of 1987, which include the period of the budget process, showed no reference to a change in Slozak's contract.

Besides passing the budget ordinance, the council also passed a separate ordinance in 1987 that gave employees a 1.5 percent cost of living increase, and a 2.5 percent comparative increase within the pay plan.

"The passed budget is the only thing in writing," Slozak said. "It was just understood that it would be put in the budget."

Slozak said that he didn't get the longevity pay the first year because there had been controversy about promoting him to the city manager position.

"I was told not to apply because the council got a letter from the NAACP, not wanting me to be hired," he said. Slozak said that the controversy stemmed from his firing an employee in his previous job of director of finance.

"I didn't apply, and the council went through the interview process, and then came to me," he said. "I don't believe I got it the first year because of the controversy. They were concerned about my appointment."

Earl Whitted Jr. and Stephen Clark Jr. are the only two members of that council still living. Whitted was on the personnel committee involved in hiring Slozak and remembers that the retiring city manager, Kenneth Collins, recommended Slozak.

But Whitted said he has no recollection of the details of the contract, or of the contract being changed.

Clark didn't remember any council discussion about longevity pay, but said that in principle he thought it wasn't appropriate for city managers to receive longevity pay.

"His compensation is a matter of his contract, what's negotiated, such as his travel allowance and other things," Clark said.

Clark also didn't remember any controversy about hiring Slozak, saying it was a unanimous vote by the council.

"I think he's done a wonderful job as city manager and it was the best thing we ever did," Clark said.

Current Finance Director Richard Durham said that he thought Slozak had received the longevity pay during his entire tenure as city manager, but Slozak says he didn't get it the first year.

Employees who have five years of service with the city as of Dec. 1 each year receive longevity pay in December.

The amount is determined by multiplying the employee's annual salary by a percentage factor, which ranges from 2.5 to 4 percent. Longevity pay for up to nine years of service is 2.5 ; from 10 to 14 years it's 3 percent; from 15 through 19 years it's 3.5 percent and 20 years and over is 4 percent.

Slozak has been in the 4 percent bracket since 1991. He makes an annual salary of $131,560, but $7,176 of that amount is delayed through a city deferment program.

State law requires that cities keep payroll records for a minimum of five years, so the Finance Department does not have the information from 1986.

But the city went on a computer system in 1995, so there is a written record since then. It shows that Slozak has received $38,712.51 over the last eight years in longevity pay.

Mayor Al King said the City Council would review the matter "and see if there's an official document, in writing, that amends the contract."