Gainesville awards raises to charter officers

The Gainesville City Commission voted to give its two remaining permanent charter officers a 2.5 percent raise and to boost the city clerk’s pay 10 percent.

The commission reviewed the 2021 performance evaluations of Virginia “Ginger” Bigbie, the city auditor, and Omichele Gainey, the city clerk, at its General Policy Committee meeting Thursday.

The remaining four charter positions – city manager, city attorney, director of equity and inclusion, and Gainesville Regional Utilities general manager – are currently held by employees with interim appointments. Their performances were not evaluated at Thursday’s meeting.

Both Bigbie and Gainey received average performance scores close to the top rating of 5, which is considered a “superior” rating, from six of the commissioners. Commissioner Cynthia Chestnut, who wasn’t elected until January, didn’t evaluate the two officers’ performances because she hadn’t been with the commission during the 2021 evaluation period.

Laura Graetz, the city’s acting human resources director, said that, historically, charter officers have been given a raise in line with that given to the city’s managerial and professional employees, who had gotten a 2.5 percent raise in January.

The commission voted unanimously to give both women a 2.5 percent raise, which is approximately a $4,200 boost for Bigbie, and a $3,300 increase for Gainey. The raises will be retroactive to January, when the managerial and professional raises went into effect.

Gainesville City Clerk Omichele Gainey

The vote to increase Gainey’s salary 10 percent was not unanimous, with the commission deciding 4-2 to approve it.

Graetz said Gainey had been given additional duties that weren’t part of the original city clerk job description, and the 10 percent increase reflected the additional work.

As part of the city clerk’s office, Gainey now manages a policy research effort that includes one full-time employee and a policy intern program.

Commissioner David Arreola said the policy research program was one of the “most used aspects” of the clerk’s office by the commission.

“I see them as a huge benefit and part of the lifeblood of this commission,” Commissioner Reina Saco said. “We only have two hands and two eyes and we can’t search everything.”

Saco also said that the 10 percent raise may help them retain Gainey – who resigned in September and then withdrew the resignation. Gainey had asked for a 15 percent salary increase as part of this year’s evaluation process, Graetz said.

Commissioners Chestnut and Adrian Hayes-Santos voted against the additional 10 percent bump for the city clerk. Commissioner Desmon Duncan-Walker was absent from Thursday’s meeting.

Chestnut called the 10 percent raise “excessive” and said she didn’t think the research program was appropriate for the city clerk’s office and recommended moving it under the city manager’s supervision.

“What is the recurring cost, and what is this costing the public?” Chestnut asked. “People are out here struggling, and we’re up here talking about a raise of this nature because you think someone will leave. I don’t think we should operate on that basis.”

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