The Party Will Soon Be Over (Maybe)

According to the City of Albuquerque web site, there are approximately 5,800 City of Albuquerque employees.

Roughly 5,200 are considered “classified employees” who are covered by the city’s personnel rules and regulations, who have vested rights including retirement benefits, sick leave and annual leave benefits and who can only be terminated for cause.

Disciplinary actions such as suspensions, demotions and termination can be appealed by classified employees to the City Personnel Board.

There are 223 full time “ungraded” positions at City Hall, who are in unclassified positions and “at-will” employees who can be terminated “without cause” and who work at the pleasure of the Mayor or the City Council. (See City of Albuquerque Pay Rate Report, Ungraded Employees on City web site.)

“Ungraded employees” or exempt employees do not have the same vested rights classified employees have and have no appeal rights to the City Personnel Board for disciplinary action so when they are fired, they are in fact gone with little or no recourse.

I was an ungraded or unclassified employee for both the State and City for over 28 years and retired in 2009 from government service.

When you become an “ungraded” employee or unclassified employee, the reward is a much higher salary and the risk is having no real job security, but there is great professional satisfaction in the work you can do and far more job opportunities in government.

Virtually all City Hall Department Directors are “ungraded employees” and serve at the pleasure of the Mayor and can be terminated without cause.

I recall vividly eight years ago during the transition period from the day of the election to when Mayor Berry took office on December 1, 2009, his transition team sent a political operative to walk around the Mayor’s office to get the correct spelling off name plates for those who worked for Mayor Martin Chavez so the designated new Chief Administrative Officer could send out letters to those employees telling them their services to the City would no longer be needed after December 1, 2009.

I found out that I would no longer be employed when Berry held a press conference and announced Darren White as my replacement, but it did not matter because I was retiring.

Mayor Berry has a little over five (5) months left in office, and it’s a sure bet many of the “ungraded” or “unclassified” employees who are staunch Berry loyalists will now try to transfer to positions within city hall to classified positions, even if it means a demotion and a reduction in pay, to be kept employed by the City.

City hall salaries are paid on an hourly rate with 2080 working hours in a year.

Mayor Berry is paid $49.93 an hour or $102, 814 a year.

The next Mayor will be paid $125,000 with the increase approved by a city task force established by a voter approved charter amendment created to set elected officials salaries.

City Councilors are currently paid $8.41 an hour or $17, 492.80 a year.

Following are thirty one (31) “ungraded” or “unclassified” City Hall employees I suspect are either updating their resumes and looking for employment elsewhere outside City Hall or are trying to find classified positions at City Hall to be transferred into before Berry leaves office and the new Mayor is sworn in December 1, 2017:

Chief Administrative Officer Rob Perry, paid $92.29 an hour or $191,963.20 a year.
APD Chief Gordon Eden, paid $81.00 an hour or $168,480 a year.
BIOPARK Chief Executive Officer James Allen, paid $77.48 an hour or $161,158.40 a year.
Director of Behavioral Sciences Nils Rosenbaum, paid $76.50 an hour or $159,120 a year.
Chief Operations Officer Michael Riordan, paid $73.53 an hour or $152,942.40 a year.
City Attorney Jessica M. Hernandez, paid $72.99 an hour or $151,819.20 a year.
Fire Chief David W. Downey, paid $64.09 an hour or $134,992 a year.
Mayor’s Chief of Staff Gilbert A. Montano, paid $61.27 an hour or $127,441 a year.
Director of Solid Waste Department John W. Soladay, $55.99 an hour or $116,459.20 a year.
Assistant APD Chief Robert Huntsman, paid $57.43 an hour or $119,454.40 a year.
APD Executive Director William R. Slausen, paid $53.82 an hour or $111,945.60 a year.
Environmental Health Director Mary L. Leonard, paid $53.46 an hour or $111,196,80 a year.
Parks and Recreation Director Barbara Taylor, paid $53.46 an hour or $111,196,80 a year.
Senior Affairs Director Jorja Armijo -Brasher, paid $52.41 an hour or $109,012.80 year.
Animal Welfare Director Paul R. Caster, paid $53.46 an hour or $111,196.80 a year.
Cultural Services Director Dana N. Feldman, paid $53.46 an hour or $111,196.80 a year.
Planning Department Director Suzanne G. Lubar, paid $53.46 an hour or $111,196.80 a year.
Human Resources Director Mary L. Scott, paid $53.46 an hour or $111,196.80 a year.
Mark T. Leach, Manager of Technology Services, paid $53.04 an hour or $110,323.20 a year.
Family Community Services Director Douglas Chaplin, paid $52.41 an hour or $109,012.80 a year.
Transit Director Bruce A. Rizzieri, paid $52.41 an hour or $109,012.80 a year.
Assistant Transit Director Dayna G. Crawford, paid $45.11 an hour or $93,828 a year.
Economic Department Director Gary L. Oppedahl, paid $51.27 an hour or $106,641.60 a year.
Police Emergency Communications Manager Erika L. Wilson, paid $50.38 and hour or $104,790.40 a year.
Aviation Director (Airport) James D. Hinde, paid $48.46 an hour or $100,796 a year.
City Clerk Natalie Y. Howard, paid $48.46 an hour or $100,796 a year.
Finance and Administrative Services Director Lou Hoffman, paid $48.46 an hour or $100,796 a year.
311 Citizens Contact Center Division Manager Maria C. Prothero, paid $43.71 an hour or $90.916.80 a year.
Mayor’s Director of Constituent Services Alan E. Armijo, paid $39.71 an hour or $82,596 a year.
Director of Office of Emergency Management Roger L. Ebner, paid $39.50 an hour or $82,160 a year.
Real Time Crime Center Manager TJ Wilham, paid $39.50 an hour or $82,160 a year.
APD Major and Academy Director Jessica Tyler, paid $51.26 an hour or $106,620 a year.
(NOTE: Major APD Tyler is not listed as an ungraded employee but is “at will” as an APD Major.)

The average salaries paid Department Directors under the previous administration were around $91,000 a year, so Berry has paid 25% to 45% percent more to his unclassified Department Directors, at will employees, while rank and file classified employee’s were given 1% to 3% raises over the last eight (8) years.

When first elected, Berry unilaterally decided not to pay union negotiated pay raises such as police and fire raises declaring a budget shortfall and the Republican controlled city council refused to increases taxes while Berry cut essential services.

Three years into his first term, Berry ordered pay reductions, but did allow for a 1% pay raise to city workers making under $30,000, all the while his Department Directors were paid their hefty salaries.

The foregoing figures are base hourly pay only.

The final figures for wages paid would include wages, both regular and overtime, as well as longevity, shift differential, incentive pays, and other “special pays” for the employees.

My only hope is that when the new Mayor is elected, that person’s transition team shows a little more class than Berry did and some respect in terminating people.

My best wishes to any of those leaving the Berry Administration in five months and I wish them well on their future endeavors outside of City Hall.

The nine (9) candidates running for Mayor need to start thinking about exactly how and who they will want to replace and who they want to surround themselves with if they are elected Mayor.

It’s a lot easier to run for office and far more difficult to govern and find competent people who can do the job who are qualified and not just political operatives, supporters and campaign workers.

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Pete Dinelli was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He is of Italian and Hispanic descent. He is a 1970 graduate of Del Norte High School, a 1974 graduate of Eastern New Mexico University with a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration and a 1977 graduate of St. Mary's School of Law, San Antonio, Texas. Pete has a 40 year history of community involvement and service as an elected and appointed official and as a practicing attorney in Albuquerque. Pete and his wife Betty Case Dinelli have been married since 1984 and they have two adult sons, Mark, who is an attorney and George, who is an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). Pete has been a licensed New Mexico attorney since 1978. Pete has over 27 years of municipal and state government service. Pete’s service to Albuquerque has been extensive. He has been an elected Albuquerque City Councilor, serving as Vice President. He has served as a Worker’s Compensation Judge with Statewide jurisdiction. Pete has been a prosecutor for 15 years and has served as a Bernalillo County Chief Deputy District Attorney, as an Assistant Attorney General and Assistant District Attorney and as a Deputy City Attorney. For eight years, Pete was employed with the City of Albuquerque both as a Deputy City Attorney and Chief Public Safety Officer overseeing the city departments of police, fire, 911 emergency call center and the emergency operations center. While with the City of Albuquerque Legal Department, Pete served as Director of the Safe City Strike Force and Interim Director of the 911 Emergency Operations Center. Pete’s community involvement includes being a past President of the Albuquerque Kiwanis Club, past President of the Our Lady of Fatima School Board, and Board of Directors of the Albuquerque Museum Foundation.