Amidst ten new resident fee hikes and millions in employee benefit cuts, City Hall chief may get mega-boost in his employment package

COLUMBIA, 8/5/12 (Beat Byte) -- Columbia city manager Mike Matthes and Mayor Robert McDavid are seeking to double Matthes' employment severance package, from 6 months full salary to one year full salary, regardless whether Matthes quits or gets fired.

The move comes as city employees face benefit reductions, and city residents face a vast array of stiff hikes, from water and sewer utility rates to health clinic visit and rental occupancy fees (story below). 
Matthes also turned down a fire department request for additional personnel to handle increased fire safety needs, the Columbia Tribune reported this morning.

The Matthes severance package also includes accrued vacation and holiday leave.  Matthes and city attorney Fred Boeckmann submitted a report to the City Council requesting adoption of the increase, which followed Matthes' yearly performance evaluation.

He has been on the job for just over a year.

With a starting annual salary of $150,000 -- a $14,000 increase over his previous position as Des Moines, Iowa assistant city manager -- Matthes agreed to a $75,000 severance package when he took the position. The new severance package would boost his payout to $150,000, not including leave time accrued during the additional six months.

The proposal has sparked concern and outrage, coming as City Hall wants to cut $50 million in pension costs, claiming serious questions about "unfunded liabilities" and the potential for bankruptcy.
New hires will receive smaller benefit packages, and the city no longer makes matching payments into some retirement plans for police and firefighters.

City public works superintendent and budget watchdog Bill Weitkemper has asked Matthes and Council members to rethink the proposal given the retirement cuts.  He has also come out against water and sewer fee hikes.
Others are more outspoken.
"In light of Columbia's ongoing budget problems, especially those hitting employee benefits, this looks terrible," said a source who requested anonymity.  "Once again, executives live by a different set of rules and priorities.  It doesn't seem to matter anymore whether it's private sector or government."