Merit increase could put El Paso City Manager pay near $400,000, evaluations give high marks to top executives

Local News

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — El Paso City Manager Tommy Gonzalez and City Attorney Karla Nieman have earned merit-related raises based on final scores on their 2021 performance evaluations.

A 5-percent increase to Gonzalez’s pay, based on a contractual entitlement, would put his pay for 2022 at approximately $398,401. A 2-percent increase, based on Nieman’s contract, would put her pay for 2022 at approximately $266,641.

The city is only releasing total scores and generalized comments from the mayor and City Council, according to a notification from the city, which means the public will not know how each city representative and the mayor scored the city manager and city attorney on their performances until a ruling from the Texas Attorney General is made.

Last year, the city cited exemptions over similar information on the pair’s evaluations. It wasn’t until months later that the attorney general ruled that the notes and information could be released with some exemptions.

KTSM 9 News obtained the annual evaluations through a request made through the Texas Public Information Act. The two sets of documents, which are at the end of this article. show Gonzalez and Nieman scored nearly perfect scores on their evaluations.

The city has been contacted for comment from Gonzalez and Nieman; however, as of press time, KTSM has not received a response.

On a scale of one to four, Gonzalez scored a 3.81 on his overall rating. And, Nieman scored a 4.18 overall rating on a scale of one to five on her evaluation.

“He has remained steadfast in delivering exceptional performance and results,” a general narrative says about Gonzalez. “The city manager understands the mechanics of operating a large city and excels in setting goals, meeting those goals and maintaining a safe community with a strategic plan for the future.”

For Nieman, a summary said: “the city attorney effectively represents the city’s interests and handles administrative decisions affecting the legal interests of the city. The city attorney hires and develops competent, talented and experienced assistant city attorneys to assist in representing the city to whom she effectively delegates work and responsibility. She operates the department in a fiscally sound manner.”

The general summaries do not indicate who is the author.

In 2020, Gonzalez and Nieman experienced across-the-board cuts and COVID-19-related cuts to their pay. But their merit-based increases from last year recovered the cuts they had experienced.

It is unclear if Gonzalez and Nieman will accept their merit increases as the city and its budget are still recovering from pandemic-related financial challenges.

The two are the highest-paid employees in the city and are given raises dependent on merit from scores on their evaluations. Their positions are the only ones the mayor and City Council are in charge of hiring and evaluating, according to the city charter.

City Manager’s scores

While individual scores by each city representative and the mayor are not available, there are some takeaways from the final evaluations. Gonzalez scored perfect ratings in excellence and accountability on his CORE values. He nearly scored a perfect score on integrity, where he is evaluated for adhering to the city’s publicly declared values. The mayor and council gave Gonzalez nearly perfect scores in leadership and development, strategic thinking, drives excellence and decision-making.

He was given three areas for professional development to focus on by June 2022. The first requires a focus on successes during the pandemic and to utilize resources to a “higher degree of efficiency in public health.” It says to “build on the successes and accomplishments of El Paso City Management by reviewing and considering local, state and national studies and best practices in Public Health.”

The second goal is set for public safety and specifically policing. He is tasked with continuing the implementation of cross-functional teams and to provide updates to the City Council.

Gonzalez is also asked to focus on collaboration. The goal recommends a retreat for the city manager and his team to retreat with the City Council in the Fall and reconnect in person to discuss strategic planning.

City Attorney’s scores

The city attorney received high marks in various points of a provision of legal services, the evaluation shows. She received a nearly perfect score for providing interdepartmental work in a collaborative manner and for coordinating work with staff from other departments.

She also received praise for points in fiscal management. She was given near-perfect scores for achieving regular legal activities within budget goals and limits and for utilizing legal staff to limit costs.

Nieman was given five goals to meet by next June. The mayor and council require the city attorney to implement updated document management technology, continue to update the public on city legal matters and expand proactive ways of updating representatives on major court cases.

Also, she is required to continue providing the council with solutions and recommendations on legal issues, communicate objective legal reasoning and expand her knowledge and expertise on high-profile cases, including ones that involve utilities.

You can read or download the evaluations below:

City Manager Tommy Gonzalez:

City Attorney Karla Nieman:

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