Rocklin names Horst new city manager

By: Jon Brines, Placer Herald Correspondent
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Citizens will get their first opportunity to see the details of Rick Horst’s employment contract with the city of Rocklin Thursday as its released to the public for the first time. The city announced Monday that Horst was appointed as Rocklin’s city manager effective early to mid February. The public will have an opportunity to comment to the full city council at their Tuesday, Dec. 14 meeting. What the agreement contains will either finally cap a year of controversy over City Manager Carlos Urrutia’s compensation or stir up populist anger once again. “I trust the council has heard the concerns raised and will address them in a way that reflects the expectations of the city, and is a fair compensation for those expectations,” Rocklin Unified School District Superintendent Kevin Brown said. “Hopefully, they have also put the appropriate safeguards in place to protect the tax payer’s dollar.” Rocklin garnered regional attention last winter when Urrutia admitted to The Placer Herald to “double dipping,” taking a salary and a pension while working as a rehired, retired annuitant in his last year to save the city money. The Placer Herald then unveiled details about a 42-percent increase in his salary in the last five years of his contract, alleged pension spiking and excessive leave payouts at a time when the city was hampered by layoffs and budget cuts.   Will Horst be offered Urrutia’s reported $232,000 base salary? At the July 10 public forum on the topic, community leader Roy Ruhkala told the council the city manager’s salary should only be around $125,000. Lincoln City Manager James Estep has an annual base salary of $223,000, Auburn City Manager Bob Richardson has an annual salary of $132,372 and Roseville City Manager Ray Kerridge is at $237,300. Community Rotary activist Paula Schoof, who has an employment law degree, said citizens need to read the fine print. “The new city manager’s salary and other benefits should be carefully evaluated,” Schoof said. “The public should know the cost of the entire compensation package offered — not just the salary. They should be updated regarding changes that could affect that number before the employment relationship begins.” Will Horst get deferred compensation, a phone and car allowance as well as funds to maintain a full home office like Urrutia’s former employment contract? Dr. Gil Stieglitz, executive pastor of Adventure Christian Church said citizens need to trust the council to do the right thing. “We trust the city leaders to do the diligence that is needed to select a great city manager,” Stieglitz said. Former school board trustee Mark Klang, who ran for city council and lost on the platform of reform, said the city already failed by not disclosing the starting salary for the city manager before the hiring process began. “They should present to the public the starting salary, pension contributions and any other perks they plan to offer the city manager or any other position before they start the interview process,” Klang said. “The candidates who interview for the job know exactly what the salary and benefits are.” Councilman Peter Hill, who serves on the committee that selected Horst, said while the contract will be up for a vote Tuesday, it’s anyone’s guess what will happen. “Normally when a contract is placed on the agenda, it is for approval,” Hill said. “The public can comment on it like all other items on the agenda. If the contract is approved by the city council, no further negotiations would occur.” The council held a series of closed sessions, where the public is barred, for contract negotiations leading up to the appointment. That’s something Marcia Fritz, the president of California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility, finds distasteful. “Stop treating closed session labor negotiations like they should forever be kept secret from the public,” Fritz said. “Once a deal is struck, put it up in lights for public review and comment before it’s a done deal. Ethics is all about doing the right thing when no one is looking, not after you’ve been found out.”     Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association said Rocklin Council members did the citizens a disservice by not allowing a sustained public comment period on the contract before rubber stamping it. “I would at least have a public comment period. Don’t say it’s a done deal,” Coupal said. “That’s such a rip off. Sunshine is the best disinfectant.” Councilman Brett Storey said the city listened to the public at the July forum, to comments made on an online survey and in one-on-one sessions with concerned citizens. “The public portion of the process has been met, formally and informally,” Storey said. “I know that many people spoke directly to me and other council members with their ideas. I am very satisfied with the input we have received so far and will also listen to comments made at the public meeting when the contract is up for vote.” Absent of negotiations with other Rocklin bargaining groups, it’s likely Horst will be offered a CalPERS pension with cost of living increases and healthcare benefits for him and his wife for life. Coupal said a state-wide movement on pension reform may force a state-wide ballot initiative to change that next year. Ten cities including San Diego, Riverside and San Francisco saw ballot initiatives last month after a public outcry. “There is a significant public backlash against public employee compensation packages generally,” Coupal said. “There is what we call ‘pension envy.’ When people in the private sector see their 401Ks lose half their value, while at the same time public employees are guaranteed their full pension benefits and cost of living increases. There becomes a real perception of inequity.” A copy of the proposed employment contract is expected to be available at City Hall and on the city of Rocklin’s website later today. Hill and Storey said council members will be open to discuss the contract with citizens prior to Tuesday’s meeting. “The council is working toward offering a fair contract to a high quality executive to lead Rocklin,” Storey said. “Our job as elected officials is to listen to the public and consider the input and use our best judgment to reach a decision.” Horst is currently the city manager of Ocala in Florida — a city of approximately 55,000 residents. Previously he served as city manager of South Jordan, a city in Utah with a population of approximately 54,000.