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Saturday, December 19, 2009
New City Hall Job, Same Fat Check
By Dan McKay
Copyright © 2009 Albuquerque Journal
Journal Staff Writer
Ed Adams is no longer City Hall's top administrator, but he'll keep collecting the big paycheck that went with the job.
An agreement signed in 2006, when Martin Chávez was mayor, says Adams can keep his $147,000 annual salary even if he's moved into a lower-level job.
Adams moved from the mayor's office to the city's Department of Municipal Development earlier this month, which was his right as a 20-year employee. The city's personnel regulations, however, don't give him the right to keep his higher salary.
That's where the 2006 memo comes in. Bruce Perlman, Chávez's chief administrative officer at the time, signed a memorandum telling Adams his "rate of pay will be maintained" if he ever returned to a regular city job.
Perlman wrote that Adams deserved to keep his pay because of his outstanding work and because he had forgone other employment opportunities to serve as a top city executive.
City Attorney Bob White recently reviewed the issue for the new administration, headed by Mayor Richard Berry. White concluded that the 2006 memo is binding.
It "does contain the essential elements of an enforceable employment contract," White wrote in a letter to the new administration.
White also said the Perlman memo had never been sent to city attorneys "pursuant to the normal contract review process."
Perlman did not return phone calls seeking comment Friday.
Berry, for his part, said he will put Adams' experience to good use within the administration and that he has nothing personal against him.
"I'm not super thrilled about" the salary, Berry told the Journal.
Adams became a special-projects manager when Berry took office. He was succeeded as CAO by David Campbell, a former city attorney.
When asked about the salary memo Thursday, Adams referred questions to the mayor's office.
Adams is a longtime city employee who worked his way up as an engineer, overseeing construction of Montaño Bridge and Isotopes Park. Under city rules, that service came as a "classified" employee, meaning he enjoyed the normal protections city workers have against being fired.
Under Chávez, however, Adams was eventually promoted into top-level management positions. That meant he was working in an "unclassified" capacity, serving at the pleasure of the mayor.
There is "no doubt," Perlman wrote, "that you have missed classified promotional opportunities at the City during your more than five years of unclassified service. In addition, it is clear that your service to the City as an unclassified employee has been exemplary."