Copyright © 2013 Albuquerque Journal
The top executive under Mayor Richard Berry will get a 22 percent raise to stick around for a second term, far more than what’s been set aside for most rank-and-file employees.
Rob Perry, Albuquerque’s chief administrative officer, was in a strong position to negotiate, because he had been named a finalist for the top job at the New Mexico Finance Authority.
Perry said Thursday he has withdrawn from consideration for that job and plans to stay through Berry’s second term, which begins Dec. 1 and ends in 2017.
He said his salary will climb from $147,000 a year to $180,000.
That far outpaces the increases available to most employees. The City Council adopted legislation this year providing enough money for 1 percent raises for most employees and 2.5 percent for police officers.
The mayor said Perry’s skills as both a lawyer and an administrator make him incredibly valuable to the city.
“He does wonderful work on behalf of the citizens every day,” Berry said in an interview. “This is a 24-7 type of job, and Rob is a 24-7 kind of guy.”
The mayor added that Perry could have made more elsewhere.
When running “a successful organization, from time to time, someone will try to come and lure away your best folks,” Berry said. “That’s what happened here.”
City Councilor Ken Sanchez said the size of the raise is simply “unacceptable.”
City employees endured an average pay cut of 2.2 percent in 2010 to help balance the budget as the economy tightened, he said. Some haven’t received a raise since then.
“I think it’s going to create a tremendous amount of animosity among the personnel of the city of Albuquerque,” Sanchez said.
The Berry administration says union leaders ought to share blame for the lack of pay increases. Negotiations have generally failed to produce agreement on new contracts, which keeps the 1 percent raise from going into effect.
Perry, a Republican, is a former city attorney who took over as Berry’s chief administrative officer in February 2011. He has also worked as cabinet secretary for corrections under then-Gov. Gary Johnson, a Republican, and as an assistant attorney general under Tom Udall, a Democrat.
Perry is a forceful presence at City Hall. He’s from Boston, with an accent that’s obvious when he addresses the City Council, and he enjoys ice hockey.
“Rob Perry works extremely hard, and there are obviously other cities and other agencies who are willing to pay far more than that for his kind of talent,” City Council President Dan Lewis said of the pay increase.
Perry said he wanted to be paid commensurate with his responsibilities. At $147,000, he was making less than the roughly $158,000 salary drawn by the top administrator at Bernalillo County, a smaller government.
Perry’s predecessor as city CAO, David Campbell, also made in the $150,000s. Perry said similar executives at mid-size cities in Arizona and Texas make well over $200,000.
“I think it’s pretty commensurate with the market,” Perry said. “… The mayor and I had a long discussion.”
Perry said he didn’t seek out the NMFA job. Instead, he was recruited by a search firm. The interim chief executive at the Finance Authority was making about $150,000 a year.
Perry said his decision, and public service in general, isn’t entirely about the money.
“Here we have an opportunity to do some important things,” Perry said of Berry’s second term. “We’ve got a lot of unfinished business.”
Berry trounced his opponents in the Oct. 8 election, winning 68 percent of the vote.
Journal staff writer Dan Boyd contributed to this report.