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xyz Lemoore City Council Chambers

Lemoore Council Chambers.

LEMOORE — While the majority of Lemoore City Council members can agree that City Manager Nathan Olson does a good job for the city, his request for a raise was not approved.

At the Lemoore City Council meeting Tuesday evening, members discussed a standard 5 percent raise for Olson based on his performance over the last year.

The Council appointed Olson as the City Manager in February 2018 and his annual salary was set to $145,800.

According to the staff report, Council provided Olson with a standard/above standard evaluation in December.

The report also states that it is common practice of the city to provide employees with an automatic merit increase of 5 percent, which Olson was asking for based on his evaluated performance.

If the increase is approved by Council, Olson’s salary would be amended to $153,090 — an increase of approximately $7,290 per year ($3,000 in the remainder of the current fiscal year). No other benefits would be increased.

According to the staff report, the current salary range for the position of City Manager is $121,297-$154,809. This proposed 5 percent increase would fall within the Council-approved range for the position.

To start the discussion, Council member Holly Blair said she did not believe a raise or contract extension was warranted at this time, citing concerns with the local economy and saying city management needs to “share in the sacrifices that the workers have been asked to take on.”

Blair also said she believed $145,000 is more than enough to attract and retain other qualified candidates in the city.

“Additionally, until the ongoing personnel issues are addressed to the satisfaction of the council, no action should be taken, in my opinion,” she said.

Blair moved to table the item, but due to a lack of a second motion, the motion died.

Mayor Eddie Neal then said Olson is a great man who does a great job, but suggested he work at least six months with the new council.

“I think they need to get the feel of the city manager,” Neal said, adding that would only be fair to the new members who just started and are trying to catch up with all the city issues.

He said this would also allow Olson to work on staff and Council relationships and improve the city’s public image due to recent challenges.

Mayor Pro Tem Chad Billingsley, who is one of the two newly-elected Council members along with Council member Stuart Lyons, said he read the evaluation and agreed with Neal that Olson is doing a good job, but was hesitant to make a hasty decision.

He said more time would help the new members since they weren’t around during the evaluation, which Lyons agreed with.

“At this time, I’d agree that taking six months to be able to evaluate him more would be beneficial,” Billingsley said.

Councilman Dave Brown spoke favorably of Olson, saying he’s been an asset to the city as city manager and felt the 5 percent raise was worth it.

“I think he deserves it,” Brown said.

Ultimately, Brown made a motion to approve the increase and was seconded by Lyons. However, the motion failed with a vote of 3-2 with Billingsley, Blair and Neal all voting “no.”

Litigation update

The request by the city of Lemoore for a temporary restraining order against Council member Holly Blair was denied in Kings County Superior Court by Judge Kathy Ciuffini.

The request stemmed from a 4-0 vote by the Council, not including Blair, during a special hearing on Jan. 29 to initiate the litigation.

The request was denied without prejudice, meaning Ciuffini could revisit the request at a later date. For now, she ordered both parties to attend mediation.

Both sides also agreed not to speak negatively about each other, including online via social media.

A status conference is scheduled for March 1.

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