The Cambridge City Council approved an 18-month extension of City Manager Louis A. DePasquale’s contract in a 6-3 vote at a meeting Monday evening.
DePasquale has served as Cambridge’s City Manager since November 2016. The renewed contract employs DePasquale for an additional period, beginning Jan. 9, 2021 and continuing through July 5, 2022. The contract also includes an initial 2.5 percent raise in January 2021 — which will bring DePasquale’s annual salary to $330,937 — followed by two additional 2.5 percent increases in July 2021 and July 2022.
The revised contract, which was initially approved during the council’s meeting on Sept. 14, returned to the docket when Councilor Patricia “Patty” M. Nolan ’80 filed a motion for reconsideration Wednesday.
“In my view, the vote taken earlier this week on the city manager (CM) contract was flawed, unclear, and warrants discussion with full transparency,” Nolan wrote in a statement to Cambridge Day last week.
This discussion “could not happen given the circumstances of a vote taken at 1 am based on a document distributed at that time,” the statement reads, referring to the late-night meeting at which the council initially approved the extension.
Nolan’s motion for reconsideration prompted more than two hours of discussion at the city council meeting Monday.
Several city councilors expressed reservations concerning DePasquale’s initial 2.5 percent raise, which is set to take effect in January.
Councilor Jivan Sobrinho-Wheeler, who voted against the revised contract alongside Nolan and Councilor Quinton Y. Zondervan, raised questions about the purpose of the initial increase.
“Our teachers aren't getting a 2.5 percent increase in January. The Department of Public Works folks, who've been out on the front lines for months and months, they're not getting an additional 2.5 percent increase in January,” Sobrinho-Wheeler said.
“The two — you know — COLA increases that happen every July, that's normal,” he added. “What I really want to focus on is this additional one in January, and all our city workers aren't getting that. I think it's worth asking ourselves as the council why the city manager does.”
Cost-of-Living Adjustments (COLA) are increases in Social Security benefits intended to counteract inflation. These adjustments are typically equal to the percentage increase in the consumer price index for urban wage earners and clerical workers for a specific period. In Cambridge, the city manager typically receives COLA adjustments in July.
Zondervan also expressed concern about the initial 2.5 percent increase, as well as the timing of the 18-month extension.
“This additional raise in January I think is problematic and I don't support it,” Zondervan said.
“It would have been more appropriate to have a one-year extension,” he added. “Then a year from now, we could always extend it again. But instead, by extending it 18 months, we get this weird timing, where now it ends four days after another salary increase.”
Zondervan also said he believes the current council is “punting responsibility” to the next council, who will have to hire a new City Manager when DePasquale’s contract ends.
“I understand the challenges of COVID and all that, but I don't accept that as a sufficient excuse for the way this process has gone down,” Zondervan said. “I think we could have done a lot better.”
Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui, who serves on the council and voted to approve the new contract, said she is not concerned about the raise because she believes DePasquale has worked very hard over the past six months to address the pandemic.
“We've been talking about the city manager working seven days a week, 24/7,” she said. “I will say for that first six months, I was there — right — I was there with him as we handled a lot of key decisions. I pretty much know that I saw him more than I saw my loved ones.”
“So I’m fine with the increase,” Siddiqui added.
Siddiqui also said she agreed with Zondervan’s “sentiments of where we failed” in regard to the process of hiring the next city manager.
“I do vow I will work on the next process because it is important,” Siddiqui said. “It will involve a lot of the things that did not happen this time around.”
—Staff writer Maria G. Gonzalez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @mariaagrace1.