Pay raise boosts SLO city attorney's annual salary by 4.7 percent

Christine Dietrick, San Luis Obispo city attorney
Christine Dietrick, San Luis Obispo city attorney jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

San Luis Obispo City Attorney Christine Dietrick will get a 4.7 percent raise, making her annual salary $168,000.

The City Council unanimously approved the increase Tuesday. The raise is retroactive to April 11, making Dietrick’s salary $14,000 a month.

Councilman Dan Carpenter, who was the sole dissenting vote when Dietrick was given a 3.5 percent raise last year, said he supported this year’s increase because Dietrick’s workload had increased “tremendously” and more “frivolous” lawsuits were being filed against the city, taking time.

One noteworthy case this past year was a lawsuit filed by local attorneys Stewart Jenkins and Saro Rizzo that challenged a city law that prohibited people from sleeping in their vehicles as unconstitutional.

The city later reached a settlement with Jenkins and Rizzo, who were representing the San Luis Obispo Homeless Alliance. The city was then ordered by San Luis Obispo Superior Court Judge Charles Crandall to pay $132,990 in attorneys' fees to Jenkins and Rizzo.

Jenkins, during public comment at the recent council meeting, said Dietrick’s salary was already higher than the median salary of attorneys in the state.

Three other people criticized the raise, including Kevin Rice and Donald Hedrick, both candidates running for the vacant City Council seat.

The city attorney and city manager are the only two employees hired and fired by the City Council. The two positions are also the only ones that have individual contracts outlining salary and benefits with the city.

In the past, the city attorney’s salary increases were based on a pay-for-performance system, intended to recognize top performance, and was typically based on employee evaluations.

However, Dietrick’s contract was amended to use comparison data such as earnings by attorneys in similar areas a part of deciding future salary increases.

The pay for performance system was adopted by the City Council in 2006.

Kathy Smith said the increase was a move toward guaranteeing equal pay for women. Smith said the salary of past city attorneys was considered during negotiations, and former city attorney Jonathan Lowell had made more than Dietrick.

In April 2012 Dietrick was given a 3.5 percent raise, which brought her salary to $160,437. Dietrick assumed the post in January 2010. She did not receive a salary increase in 2011.