Pay raise for SLO city attorney approved by City Council

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

The San Luis Obispo City Council, with a 3-2 vote Tuesday, approved a 4.2 percent raise for City Attorney Christine Dietrick.

Dietrick’s annual salary increased to $175,006 plus benefits from $168,000, increasing her pay to $14,583 a month. The increase is retroactive to April 10.

Council members Kathy Smith and Dan Carpenter dissented, saying they did not want the raise to pave the way for future negotiations with employee unions.

“This has nothing to do with her performance,” Smith said. “It is just my concern over laying the groundwork for negotiations with employees in months ahead. I think the council needs to be consistent as possible in expenditures of dollars.”

The city is in the process of updating its compensation philosophy — its framework for how to go about determining salaries — as it collects data to update actual pay ranges. The study could ultimately change the pay scale of some city jobs.

The results will be used as a bargaining tool with employees during negotiations.

In 2011, at the depth of the city's budget problems, the council directed staff to negotiate a 6.8 percent cut in total compensation for all employees.

Those contracts, some of which took nearly a year to settle, will start to expire at the end the year. The contract of the city's largest employee union, the San Luis Obispo City Employees Association, expires Dec. 31, 2014, followed by the Police Staff Officers in June 2015, and fire union and the remaining police employees in December 2015.

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.

A compensation survey done by the city found that the median salary for city attorneys in comparable cities was $205,352 — an 18 percent increase over what Dietrick was earning.

San Luis Obispo is the only local city to have a city attorney on staff. The remaining cities in San Luis Obispo contract for legal services. County Counsel Rita Neal makes $181,875 annually.

“She was making considerably less in term of comparable salaries,” said Councilwoman Carlyn Christianson. “That is why I supported an increase.”

City Manager Katie Lichtig did not request a salary increase, according to Monica Irons, human resources director. Lichtig’s annual salary remains $221,520 plus compensation — the same that it has been since she was hired in 2010.

This would be the third consecutive raise for Dietrick. In 2013 the council approved a 4.7 percent raise, making her annual salary $168,000, and in April 2012, she was given a 3.5 percent raise, which brought her salary to $160,437. Dietrick was hired in January 2010. She did not receive a salary increase in 2011.