ashland.news
July 18, 2024

Ashland City Council approves pay raise for interim city manager 

Interim City Manager Sabrina Cotta kicked off the city’s town hall meeting in January. Ashland.news photo by Bob Palermini
June 21, 2024

Sabrina Cotta took managerial helm after city manager left at end of October

By Morgan Rothborne, Ashland.news

After a successful performance review conducted over the course of three executive sessions, the Ashland City Council on Tuesday approved a salary increase for Interim City Manager Sabrina Cotta on a 4-1 vote. 

Councilors took turns expressing gratitude and praising Cotta’s work, particularly in light of her managing the duties of interim city manager and deputy city manager simultaneously. City Manager Joe Lessard’s 22-month stint in the post ended Oct. 27, but he remained on paid leave until Jan. 31. Deputy City Manager Cotta officially became interim city manager Feb. 1.

Councilor Paula Hyatt said she had stepped in at a time of need and accomplished work of breadth and depth. Councilor Dylan Bloom said her performance spoke “volumes to her qualifications.” Councilor Bob Kaplan said she created stability, provided leadership to staff and support to the council. Mayor Tonya Graham noted her ability to balance operational needs, multiple projects and improved communication with the public. 

“Not only are you performing tasks of both deputy and city manager, but you are also taking on new initiatives of community priorities and council priorities and the laundry list of accomplishments in this short duration is truly impressive,” said Councilor Eric Hansen. 

Councilor Gina DuQuenne said she appreciated Cotta’s “diligence and resilience,” but that she would not support a raise for the interim city manager. 

“At this time I don’t know if this is the time to enhance salary and benefits,” DuQuenne said. 

A city spokesperson declined to give the specific amount of the raise, but said Cotta went from step 4 to step 5 on the city non-represented employee salary schedule. For the deputy city manager, that’s a raise to $156,559 from $152,741, or $3,818. 

Councilors Bloom, Hansen, Hyatt, and Kaplan voted in favor of the motion for the pay raise while DuQuenne voted against. Councilor Jeff Dahle was absent from the meeting. No information on the amount of salary raise was provided at the meeting or in meeting materials. 

Graham said normally performance reviews would only take two executive sessions, but because the council had forgotten to obtain some information from Cotta hers stretched into three. The city has also implemented a new policy of biannual performance reviews which are already scheduled as executive sessions on the council look-ahead for September and May. 

The new process will provide not only more opportunity for feedback for the city manager but is intended to create better two-way feedback. The city manager will have the opportunity to share staff perspectives on council’s work during the performance reviews, Graham said.

Information and Technology department created 

In other council business Tuesday, a number of second readings for ordinances and a city charter change were rapidly approved but without completely unanimous votes. 

The city charter change to formally create an Information and Technology department was unanimously approved. The department combines not only traditional information technology (IT) services, but also the Ashland Fiber Network, which operates as its own enterprise entity within the department. No staffing or budget changes are expected due to the change, according to the staff report.

A second reading for an ordinance to create a right of way vacancy on Meadows Drive was also unanimously approved. A pair of alterations to the city’s building code saw opposition from DuQuenne. 

Amendments to sections of Ashland Municipal Code Title 15 “Buildings and Construction,” and Title 2 “Administration,” “Established Membership of the Building Board of Appeals,” was previously presented at the May 21 council meeting, said Community Development Director Brandon Goldman. 

The code changes involve changes such as improving language surrounding the appeals process,, better aligning with the fire code, ensuring buildings in Ashland are built and maintained in safety and adopting standards from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to “ensure continued eligibility for federal flood insurance, disaster recovery funds, and mitigation grants,” according to meeting materials. 

“This is unnecessary and it’s not needed so I won’t be supporting this,” DuQuenne said before voting against the second reading of the ordinance. 

Councilors Bloom, Kaplan, Hyatt and Hansen voted in favor. 

A report and recommendation from the Social Equity and Racial Justice Advisory Committee was listed on the agenda but moved to a future meeting, Graham said. 

Email Ashland.news reporter Morgan Rothborne at morganr@ashland.news.

Picture of Bert Etling

Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Ashland.news. Email him at betling@ashland.news.

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