Special Reports

Tacoma council approves $149,052 salary for new city manager

Tacoma City Manager Jim Walton will be paid $149,052 a year - about $32,900 less than his predecessor - and for the first time in years, the manager's pay raises will be tied to performance appraisals.

The City Council unanimously approved the salary for Walton on Tuesday night. It was set following consultation with Human Resources director Phil Knudsen and discussions among council members, Mayor Bill Baarsma said.

Walton, 64, officially replaced Ray Corpuz as the city's chief executive July 15 after Corpuz lost his job in the David Brame scandal.

The salary set for Walton, a 32-year city employee who rose through the ranks to deputy city manager and then acting city manager, reflects his experience level, Knudsen said.

Walton's most recent salary was $137,446 a year, or $66.08 an hour.

His new salary was set at Step 4 of a city manager pay scale approved by the council last week. That scale begins at $127,795 a year and tops out at $182,998.

The pay scale has two principal purposes, Knudsen told the council Tuesday night: It assures "adequate, fair and reasonable compensation to our city manager." And it "brings transparency" to the manager's salary by making it a set figure and doing away with the longstanding practice of setting the manager's pay rate, then adding deferred compensation and longevity pay.

Now, when someone calls the city's personnel office and asks how much the city manager makes, there will be no confusion, Knudsen said.

Under the previous system, if someone asked how much the city manager earned, the answer was based on the way the question was asked, Knudsen told the council on July 1.

When The News Tribune asked for Corpuz's salary in April, city officials said he was paid $160,928, plus $14,000 a year in deferred compensation - money that is used to build retirement funds.

Later, city officials gave Corpuz's hourly rate as $84.10, which adds up to $174,928 annually.

Pay records obtained by The News Tribune last month through open records laws listed Corpuz's annual salary as $181,925 - or $87.46 an hour, once a 4 percent longevity bonus was added.

In 13 years as Tacoma city manager, Corpuz more than doubled his annual salary - from $87,217 to $181,925 - according to records from the city's Human Resources Department.

The rapid rise in compensation made him one of the highest-paid public officials in the state, far ahead of Gov. Gary Locke, who is paid $142,284, and several local heads of government.

The new city manager's new pay schedule ties future raises to performance, something that hasn't been done for years, Knudsen said.

Corpuz received only three performance reviews during his tenure as city manager, and his recent pay hikes were not tied to the results of those reviews.

Corpuz, 56, was terminated by a 5-4 vote of the council in the wake of the scandal that began April 26 when Police Chief Brame fatally shot his wife and himself.

Kris Sherman: 253-597-8659