City Manager Sheryl Sculley listens to citizens during City Council on Thursday, Feb.18,2016. Photo by Lea Thompson.
City Manager Sheryl Sculley listens to citizens during City Council on Thursday, Feb.18,2016. Photo by Lea Thompson.

After more than an hour of discussion on Thursday, City Council voted 8-3 to approve a new three-year contract for City Manager Sheryl Sculley that includes annual $25,000 raises to her current $400,000 base pay and, for the first time in her more than 10 years in the position, a performance-based bonus that could yield a $100,000 payout.

Council members Ray Lopez (D6), Cris Medina (D7) and Shirley Gonzales (D5) opposed approval of the amended contract, citing their desire to establish metrics for the performance before approving the package.

In prior years, Sculley received a year-end retention bonus that reached as high as $65,000. Going forward, City Council will review Sculley’s performance at the end of each calendar year to determine whether she achieved set goals or “metrics.”

Mayor Ivy Taylor said that Sheryl Sculley's performance as City Manager is worth the high salary. Photo by Lea Thompson.
Mayor Ivy Taylor said that City Manager Sheryl Sculley’s performance has been “excellent.” Photo by Lea Thompson.

“This is major progress,” Mayor Ivy Taylor said after Thursday’s council meeting. “Prior to now there have been no metrics.”

The contract is effective immediately. Sculley will receive $65,000 in retention pay that was guaranteed in the three-year contract that expired on Dec. 31.

Salary increases over three years will total 18.75%:

  •  $400,000 to $425,000 in 2016, a 6.25% increase.
  •  $425,000 to $450,000 in 2017, a 5.88% increase.
  •  $450,000 to $475,000 in 2018, a 5.55% increase.

Council members, the mayor, and city manager will now hammer out which metrics they’ll use to judge Sculley’s performance by March 15. That list will be made public as soon its completed, Taylor said.

Almost all council members spoke before the vote to take inventory of Sculley’s accomplishments throughout her career at City Hall. She has balanced 10 city budgets, achieved and maintained the city’s AAA bond rating, reduced payroll by 1,000 employees, and effectively managed more than 30 departments and almost 12,000 employees, said Councilman Mike Gallagher (D10). He took special care to note that, compared with other public and private executives, they were getting a deal with Sculley.

“The worst thing that we could do would be to change leadership at this time,” Gallagher added, as the City prepares its 2017 bond package and pursues its lawsuit against the police and fire union contracts.

Councilman Mike Gallagher (D10) defends the City Manager's high salary on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016. Photo by Lea Thompson.
Councilman Mike Gallagher (D10) defends the City Manager’s salary increase on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016. Photo by Lea Thompson.

“I just didn’t feel like we had enough time to truly vet the (performance incentive structure),” Medina said in expressing his opposition to the Thursday vote. Council members officially received a copy of the proposed contract on Wednesday. At the very top of the metric list will likely be reaching a collective bargaining agreement with police and firefighter union contracts, Medina said.

“Both sides have been responsible for the impasse we have at this moment,” he said, noting his support for a withdrawal of the City’s lawsuit challenging the contracts’ 10-year evergreen clauses. “I’m calling on the manager and I’m calling on the unions as well to try to get back to the table.”

Medina said a number of his constituents had called him to express frustration with the stalled collective bargaining talks. The unions stepped up their ads attacking Sculley after the lawsuit was filed.

Councilman Ron Nirenberg (D8) agreed that council members should have been given more to time to review the contract, but he said her performance was “second to none” and warranted a raise.

“I don’t lay (the police and fire union contracts) at the feet of the city manager or staff,” Nirenberg said. “We are the policy makers, we are the bosses. … We need to take ownership of that and correct it as policy makers should.”

Taylor also suggested that several other items might become metrics for measuring city manager performance, including expanding street maintenance and infrastructure, the completion of the rental car and parking garage project at the San Antonio International Airport, and getting succession plans in place for her executive staff.

The amended contract reduces the previous contract’s generous severance pay from 21 months, often called a “golden parachute,” to 12 months in the event Sculley is fired.

*Top image: City Manager Sheryl Sculley listens to citizens discuss her new contract on Thursday in Council chambers. Photo by Lea Thompson.

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Iris Dimmick

Senior Reporter Iris Dimmick covers public policy pertaining to social issues, ranging from affordable housing and economic disparity to policing reform and workforce development. Contact her at