Anyone negotiating their salary might want to take a page out of the book of Pembroke Pines City Manager Charlie Dodge, one of the highest paid city administrators in the state.
Late Wednesday, the city agreed to pay Dodge $275,000 plus perks — which is $77,000 more than it offered Dodge just a month ago.
“Pembroke Pines has been my life,” said Dodge, who has led the city for the past 23 years. “I have seen a lot of significant, innovative programs that the city has taken with the approval and blessing of the commission.”
On top of his base salary, Dodge, 65, will also receive allowances for cell phone, car and other expenses. His compensation package, however, does not include a pension or health insurance. He already collects a $75,000 annual pension, and receives free health insurance for life — benefits he earned when he retired in 2002.
The following year, the city signed a lucrative contract with his private firm, Charles F. Dodge LLC, to pay Dodge and his top lieutenant, Martin Gayeski, about $700,000 a year. (It is unknown how they divided the fee.)
But many in the community — among them Commissioner Jay Schwartz who was elected to office in January on the promise to rein in city spending — complained the duo were getting paid too much money.
In comparison, President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden earned a combined salary of about $630,000 in 2011. The top 10 populated cities in Florida pay their city managers a range of $90,000 to $199,000.
This summer, under pressure from Schwartz, Dodge announced he would not seek a renewal of the city's contract when it expires in February. But he intended to return to work as a full-time city employee and asked for $285,000 a year, citing his years of experience, the number of employees he managed and his dual role as superintendent of the city’s charter school system.
But last month, the commission countered with $198,000.
“It's really an insult,” Dodge said at the time.
A miffed Dodge then let it be known he would interview for the top spot in Sunrise, a city about half the size of Pembroke Pines, which was advertising the job for $200,000.
Two weeks ago, unable to make a decision, the Pines commission asked a city auditor to come up with a recommendation on what Dodge should be paid. The auditor recommended rehiring Dodge as a city employee at a salary between $225,000 and $275,000.
The report considered Dodge’s years of experience and knowledge of the city as intangible factors for a setting compensation. The report also said the cost of searching for a new city manager would range from $25,000 to $35,000.
Vice Mayor Carl Shechter noted that the report failed to include Dodge’s role as superintendant of the Pembroke Pines Charter schools and therefore proposed offering Dodge the top range.
Dodge also had several members of the community and representatives from the fire and police departments speaking on his behalf:
“I fear the loss of Mr. Dodge could have an negative effect on my children’s education,” said resident Wayne Katz. “I do not want a replacement that has never dealt with the charter schools. I want my children to continue to grow and learn with Mr. Dodge at the helm.”
Schwartz, the only commissioner to vote against the proposed salary, demanded that if an agreement was made, Dodge had to withdraw his application for the city manager position in Sunrise.
Commissioner Iris Siple expressed her desire for the city manager to train others to fill his shoes as a city manager in order to provide a smooth transition in case a new city manager is needed in the future.
“I haven’t heard anyone say that Mr. Dodge has done a terrible job,” said Siple, who had proposed the commission audit report at the previous meeting. “It would be good for us to keep him, it would be good for us and for him.”
The new salary will begin in March once the private contact the city made with Dodge’s private firm expires in February.