Special Reports

Corpuz era ends after a wrenching 2 months

Ray Corpuz officially left office as Tacoma's city manager Monday, capping a 29-year career that began as a $3.19-an-hour temporary employee and ended as the city's most influential deal-maker with an annual salary of $181,925.

The City Council terminated Corpuz's employment, effective at midnight Monday, on a contentious 5-4 vote July 1. Although the council decided against severance pay, Corpuz will leave with nearly $80,000 for unused time off he's earned, plus his city retirement plan.

The city has paid Corpuz $34,986 in salary since he went on administrative leave May 6 in the wake of the David Brame scandal. That total includes two holidays and six vacation days during a leave that spanned 50 weekdays, according to personnel department figures.

If you subtract the vacation pay, his paid administrative leave, including the holidays, cost the city $30,788, plus $627 a month in medical and dental insurance premiums.

The city also makes a $13,753 annual contribution to Corpuz's regular retirement plan. That's 7.56 percent of his salary; he contributed 6.44 percent to the plan, according to city payroll records.

Those retirement contributions, which total about $25,468 a year, are in addition to the deferred compensation of $14,000 a year he's been receiving - a sum the city figures into his hourly and daily salary rate.

Corpuz, 56, had not applied for city retirement plan benefits as of Monday, plan director Patricia Pabst said. He could not be reached for comment. Based on his age and years of service, he's eligible to collect retirement as soon as the papers are processed.

City employees are supposed to give 30 days' notice of their retirement, which should coincide with their last day of work, Pabst said. But Corpuz was "retired" by the City Council only two weeks ago.

He can apply for a waiver to the usual rules in order to begin the retirement process, Pabst said.

He also has the option of buying enough credits into the retirement plan to bridge the gap between his current 28.9 years of service and the magical 30 years' service number needed to collect maximum retirement benefits.

That could cost him between $45,000 and $50,000, one city official said. If he does so, he can boost his pension by roughly $275 to $300 a month.

City officials haven't calculated Corpuz's retirement benefits, but a News Tribune analysis on 28.9 years' service estimated he'd receive roughly $8,000 a month.

Corpuz has about 930 hours of unused paid time off - a combination of sick leave and vacation time - for which city human resources officials estimate he'll receive $78,152.

Corpuz put himself on paid leave May 6 pending the results of investigations into the city's promotion and personnel policies concerning Police Chief David Brame. Brame fatally shot his wife, Crystal, and then committed suicide April 26, one day after Corpuz declined to put Brame on leave, calling the couple's messy divorce "a civil matter."

As the scandal escalated, many citizens wanted the council to fire Corpuz, and on May 12 he announced he'd retire when the investigations were complete. But he said he wanted time to return to the city manager job he'd held for 13 years to complete some projects.

His retirement announcement left many residents and council members bereft.

His departure marks an end to an important economic development era downtown and along the Thea Foss Waterway, Councilwoman Sharon McGavick said.

"He has been a linchpin in that effort ... and from that perspective, it saddens me," she said of his retirement.

But when it became apparent at the end of May that the two investigations - one criminal, one civil - would take far longer than imagined, the council voted to speed up Corpuz's retirement.

He tried to negotiate a deal that would include six months of severance pay and enough funding to get him to 30 years of service for retirement purposes, but the council turned him down.

On July 1, council members exercised their "hire and fire" powers over the manager, terminating his employment effective Monday "with sincere thanks for his many accomplishments."

Deputy city manager Jim Walton was named his successor.

Kris Sherman: 253-597-8659