Since Atherton's new city manager won't be moving into the town-owned mansion in Holbrook-Palmer Park, as did his predecessors, a two-member council committee will meet with him to discuss how to supplement his $160,000 annual salary.

Mayor Elizabeth Lewis appointed herself and Vice Mayor Jerry Carlson to the ad-hoc committee during the council's Wednesday meeting.

"We have no official policy requiring a city manger to live in the house," Lewis said at the council meeting. "If the city manager's personal situation prevents him from moving there, no matter what his original intention had been, I think we should evaluate that."

City-owned home for Atherton’s city manager  at 160 Watkins Ave.
City-owned home for Atherton's city manager at 160 Watkins Ave. (Nhat V. Meyer)

Although the committee will bring its recommendations to the council in February in closed session, City Attorney William Conners said any final decision would have to be made in an open session.

Council Member Bill Widmer, who sat on the ad-hoc committee with former Council Member Kathy McKeithen that negotiated George Rodericks' contract, said he was "surprised" the city manager is now seeking more money, because they made it clear the job comes with a $160,000 salary and free housing valued at about $60,000. Rodericks led them to believe he would relocate by summer, after his daughter finished the school year, Widmer said.


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"We were pretty adamant that we wanted a city manager to be living in the house. That had been the tradition for quite some time. The house in the park is called the city manager's house," Widmer said, noting that the town has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in upkeep for the historic home.

"If somebody doesn't want to live there, that's their choice, but I'm not sure the taxpayer has to bear the additional costs of paying for a house that no one is living in and then paying an additional salary," Widmer said.

McKeithen, who did not seek re-election in November and was speaking as a member of the public, called a council memo Rodericks wrote suggesting his overall compensation should be about $220,000 without the free mansion a "gross misrepresentation of negotiations."

"It was pretty clear he was going to be moving into the house," she said. "We never discussed an overall compensable salary of $220,000."

Carlson said he doesn't believe the town made living in the mansion, officially called the Watkins House, a condition of employment for the city manager.

"As I understand it ... there are complexities beyond his control that make it impossible at this point in time to move himself and significant other and family to this area," he said.

Newly elected Council Member Cary Wiest said increasing Rodericks' compensation should be considered because "circumstances do change" and recruiting another city manager would be costly. Council Member Jim Dobbie was absent from the meeting.

In a phone interview Thursday, Lewis said she thought Rodericks should get an additional $60,000 since he won't be living in the house.

"I don't see it as a financial hardship to the town to pay the city manager his fair compensation," Lewis said.

In other action Wednesday, the council unanimously approved a revised salary and benefit resolution calling for the town's 12 unrepresented employees to pick up a 7 percent share of their pension costs in exchange for a 3.5 percent pay raise. The resolution also creates a second-tier reduced retirement plan for new employees, caps the town's costs for health benefits, and limits vacation and sick leave.

Email Bonnie Eslinger at beslinger@dailynewsgroup.com; follow her at twitter.com/bonnieeslinger.