Turlock wants help reviewing manager

Tim Kerr
Tim Kerr Modesto Bee

TURLOCK -- The City Council is bringing in a third party to help complete a comprehensive performance evaluation of City Manager Tim Kerr.

Council members voted to evaluate Kerr's performance last month after questions arose regarding the city's new contract with the Turlock City Employee Association. Most council members thought Kerr gave more to the union than council members had discussed during the October closed-door meeting.

Some council members maintain they agreed to give employees up to 9 percent in raises over two years or an increase in pensions. But the association won the pay raise and a 0.7 percent increase in pensions.

Other coun- cil members, including Mayor John Lazar, thought Kerr acted as directed and never merited the evaluation.

Kerr, who cannot discuss the personnel matter, was last evaluated in July, said City Clerk Rhonda Greenlee.

Council members voted 3-2 Tuesday to bring in a third party to help with an evaluation set to take place within 60 days, Greenlee said. Councilmen Ted Howze and Kurt Spycher dissented.

Howze has said that while he'd love to give everyone a big raise, a limited budget could mean the city employees' new contract will cost public safety unions their raises.

Councilman Kurt Vander Weide made the motion in support of bringing in a facilitator. Hours before the vote, as the meeting was just beginning, Vander Weide led a prayer that alluded to the closed-door discussion item before them.

'Over us hangs a cloud'

"Over us hangs a cloud. We all acknowledge it," he said during the appeal for guidance.

Just before council members retreated into the closed meeting Tuesday, two residents asked to speak in support of Kerr, hoping to convince representatives not to sack the city manager. Because the item was posted as a performance review and not specified as a discussion about job termination, council members would not have been able to fire Kerr, according to state law.

Patricia O'Donnell, president of the Carnegie Arts Foundation, said Kerr is professional and the city would lose by letting him go.

"Nothing leads me to believe he'd do anything to damage the city's or his name," she said.

Resident Mary Jackson said Kerr is smart, articulate and approachable, important qualities for a city manager. Firing him would not be in the city's best interest, she added.

"We don't need division or theatrics in our community," Jackson said.

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