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Proposed contract for Kodiak’s interim city manager draws public ire due to ‘problematic’ salary

Kodiak City Manager Mike Tvenge.

Kodiak’s city manager will resign from his full time position at the end of this month, after seven plus years on the job. City Manager Mike Tvenge said he is willing to sign a contract as the interim manager starting in May. A sticking point to that contract being finalized though, is figuring out how much Tvenge will be paid.

One of the items on the agenda for the upcoming Council meeting on Thursday is an amendment to the City Manager’s employment agreement.

The document states, if it is signed and approved, Mike Tvenge will become the Interim City Manager starting May 1 with a new base salary of $304,330, with the contract expiring on Dec. 31, 2024.

If approved, that would be a 66% pay increase for Tvenge, despite the interim role. His current salary, which was increased in 2021, is $182,520.

“I do find it problematic, especially because this new salary is, I think, a 60% increase in salary,” Aileen Fitzgerald told the City Council.

Fitzgerald is a Kodiak resident who voiced her concerns during a hiring committee meeting last week on April 5. Fitzgerald added that the process for hiring a new city manager should have begun sooner since Tvenge sent Mayor Pat Branson notice of his anticipated departure from the job in January. The city’s hiring committee didn’t hold its first meeting to discuss the hiring process until March 27, and the city manager position wasn’t posted on the city’s job site until April 8.

During a work session Tuesday night, Councilmember Bob Stanford also voiced concerns over how this proposed interim contract would affect the budget for recruiting and hiring a new full time city manager.

“If it is $304,000, our full time equivalent, our FTE across the board for all our city employees is normally double what the salary is, right? So I know that insurance is already part of this process, but we don’t have those monies. I would request the hiring committee look at that very closely,” Stanford cautioned.

Currently, the Kodiak City Manager job posting lists the starting salary for the city manager at $175,000 annually.

Mayor Pat Branson, who sits on the hiring committee, pointed out that several other city manager jobs are open in Alaska. She said Kodiak has to be competitive.

“I think it’s really important for people to understand the job of the city manager. If you go back and read some of the city manager reports, you can see what’s being done at the city level. It’s incredible the amount of work that goes into that. It is a professional position. And there are, I don’t know, four or five maybe more communities competing right now for city managers across the state,” Branson explained.

A potential justification for Tvenge’s proposed salary increase was his latest annual performance review, which is cited in city documents as a “favorable one.” According to Council members, the manager’s performance review is supposed to happen annually but the last one took place in 2021, according to city documents, during an executive session, which is standard practice. The results of that performance review are not public.

But according to Councilmember John Whiddon, the proposed salary increase to more than $300,000 was brought forward by Tvenge. Whiddon is not sure how Tvenge came up with that number and notes that it took the City Council by surprise. Tvenge is currently out of town and Mayor Branson said she plans for the hiring committee to meet with him after April 18 when he returns.

Councilmembers agreed on Tuesday night April 9, during a work session, to postpone voting on the city manager’s employment agreement later this week. The document will however still be listed on Thursday’s meeting agenda.

Update 04.11.2024: This article previously stated the last performance review for the city manager took place in 2023 but actually the last documented review happened in 2021. KMXT has updated the article to reflect that and regrets the error.