Digging In With The Hope Of Holding On

Mayor’s former appointee snags protected city job

It is being reported by Channel 13 that the Assistant Transit Director position being held by Dayna G. Crawford, is being reclassified from an “ungraded”, or unclassified potion, to a classified position, a little more than three (3) months before the new Mayor is sworn in.

The position pays $45.11 an hour or $93,828 a year.

Crawford initially served as Republican Mayor Berry’s communications director and worked directly out of the Mayor’s office.

Three years ago, Crawford switched roles and became ABQ Ride’s deputy director and was later tasked with heading the team for the Albuquerque Rapid Transit (ART) bus project.

The position of Assistant Transit Direct that Crawford took was an ungraded or unprotected position, meaning the new mayor could do away with Crawford in that role and appoint someone else to the job.

The City claims the position was opened through a competitive process and Ms. Crawford was selected as the most qualified applicant.

All too often political operatives take high paying political jobs with an elected administration knowing full well they are at-will employees assuming the risk of termination in exchange for a lucrative salary.

When their time finally runs out they seek the protections of personnel rules and regulations that are more designed to protect long term employees who make significantly less.

It’s the sense of entitlement that is so very disturbing.

I recall vividly eight years ago during the transition period, Mayor-elect Berry 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.

Berry then had his designated new Chief Administrative Officer send out letters to those employees telling them their services to the City would no longer be needed after Berry took office.

Berry then filled the positions with his own political loyalists.

I did not care when I got my termination letter, I knew the risks and retired.

I was an ungraded or unclassified employee for both the State and City for over 28 years and retired in 2009 during the transition from government service, an option many of those who were terminated did not have.

I found out that I would no longer be employed when Berry held a press conference and announced Darren White as my replacement.

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.

When you become an “ungraded” employee or unclassified employee, the reward is a much higher salary.

The risk to taking an “ungraded” or “unclassified” position is having no real job security.

The risk that is run when an employee goes from an unclassified position to a classified position is they must complete a six (6) month probationary period and during that time can be terminated without cause or for any reason.

Following is Section 305 of the city’s Personnel Rules and Regulations:

“As a condition of employment, classified employees must serve a probationary period. An employee serving a probationary period does not have a legitimate entitlement to continued employment and may be terminated for any or no reason.

The probationary period shall be for a period of six (6) months immediately following the original classified appointment date.

At any time during the probationary period an employee may be dismissed for any reason, which is not prohibited by law.”

Notwithstanding, taking an unclassified position comes the 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.

Mayor Berry leaves office December 1m 2017 , 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.

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

The next Mayor will be paid $125,000 a year 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 (30) “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:

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. (Announced departure will be gone Sept. 25 to work for the Hillsboro Fire Department in Oregon.)
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. (Has left the City already.)
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.
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 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.

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 increase 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.

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 three (3) months and I wish them well on their future endeavors outside of City Hall, unless they somehow find a way to get their position changed to classified positions to continue to work for the City.

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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.