City of San Jose Pays 3 Former Managers $333,000 to Go Away

A new twist has transpired in the city of San Jose’s executive purge, as interim City Manager Norberto Dueñas signed off on an unprecedented buyout late last month. Alex Gurza, formerly a deputy city manager and lead labor negotiator for the city, was surprisingly let go in mid-December by the previous City Manager Ed Shikada. But through a quirk in the civil servant system, Gurza was able to come back to the city’s employ just days later as a low-level analyst in the Parks & Rec department—a job he had held 20 years earlier. In the process, Gurza’s pay was reduced to roughly a third of his previous $222,000 salary. Yet on Jan. 23, Dueñas signed off on a severance package for Gurza that included back pay at his prior pay rate and six months’ salary—or about $111,000. Combined with buyouts for Shikada, who was forced out by Mayor Sam Liccardo and the council majority at the end of last year, and Asst. City Manager Pam Antil, who followed Shikada out the door, the city will now pay three of its top executives as recently as two months ago a combined sum of $333,308 to not work for the city. In return, the three former employees have agreed not to sue. All of these maneuvers are relatively unusual in the public sector, but agreeing to give Gurza a golden parachute after he was fired is particularly odd. City Attorney Rick Doyle admitted the situation “is a little bit out of the ordinary” and confirmed that Gurza was offered the same deal back in December. Dueñas decided to revisit the offer to “stabilize the situation,” Doyle said. While a city manager can’t make purchase decisions that exceed $250,000, the City Council in 1997 authorized the manager’s office to extend severance pay to a non-elected employee for up to six months. They probably just didn’t expect to do it for three top-level executives all at once.

Pam Antil severance package.

Alex Gurza severance package.

Ed Shikada severance package.

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15 Comments

  1. This is standard practice for executive city employees who are at will (meaning they are just like the private sector) and can get fired at any time. Every city does this. Typically they get severance contracts. How come noone objects to the huge payoffs people far below their level get in the private sector when they are fired? Or football coaches at big universities?

    • How come noone objects to the huge payoffs people far below their level get in the private sector when they are fired? Or football coaches at big universities?

      The entire reason HR exists is to minimize a corporations exposure to lawsuits from employees. Sure, it’s glossed over as benefits administrators, and mediators, but that’s all just one large gloss over for their overall purpose, which again, is to minimize risk of losing a lawsuit to employee X. At most pay scales, you don’t have to worry about your employee even making enough to hire a lawyer. Most will be happy with the 2 weeks severance, cobra package, and exit interview.

      Once an employee starts making over a certain amount, that money allows them to employ their own legal council. So an HR department has to think up new ways of avoiding lawsuits. One method, is to offer a golden parachute on the contingency that both parties agree to a “covenant not to sue”

      To a judge, the corporation is already being, “Most reasonable” as long as the dollar amount of the offer is also reasonable. A judge will consider any case coming before them to be “frivolous” in nature for rejecting a reasonable offer.

    • > How come noone objects to the huge payoffs people far below their level get in the private sector when they are fired?

      I think this is largely public employee mythology.

      The great majority of private sector employees are “at will”. They can be given two weeks notice. If the employer wants to minimize bitterness and bad images, they can offer a weeks pay for every week of service.

      A small percentage of private sector employees have employment contracts, which often have enhanced provisions or benefits, such as defined minimum employment terms, termination payments, etc.

      But the notion that people in the private sector routinely get “huge payoffs” is not reality.

    • This is the usual “I’ll scratch your back if you’ll scratch mine” philosophy that has been pervasive in the public sector for decades. It can only be stopped by attacking it at the front end. Once the sweetheart contract is “negotiated” and signed, the taxpayers are screwed. No-one looks out for the taxpayers in these situations.

  2. Can’t seem to retain or hire new employees but we can sure hand out a golden hand shake. I am so glad voters got what they asked for in Sam. Good luck with that a total joke.

    • Lets NOT forget that the current “Interim” City Manager along with a select few of Scam Riccardo’s inner circle , received hefty pay raises . All the while public safety is getting ready to give up even more pay .

  3. I didn’t get a severance at all when I was laid off from a job at which I did nothing wrong (just cut like 20 other staffers at the same time). This depresses me–not so much the severance for Shikada becuase that’s part of his contract, but the others? depressing.

  4. $111,000.00 to have gurza gone is absolutely worth it. After taxes, he will get a little over 80k, which is a smidgeon of what he was use to earning, annually. He is no longer a part of the City of San Jose and that calls for the happy dance. Good riddance.

  5. Interesting: when a big check is cut to a former city administrator (or three) to avoid the substantial costs and very real risks associated with taking a case before a low-IQ jury the media always makes the decision out to be dirty business-as-usual; but when a big check is cut to some lawbreaking scumbag for those very same reasons the decision-makers are afforded great respect and treated as if they had no other choice but to bail-out the obviously guilty cops involved in the case.

    • FinFan: Big checks to scumbags are cut because there isn’t a single attorney with a pair of balls in the city attorney’s office to take those cases to trial.

  6. It’s just money.

    Have somebody in City Hall send a text message to the Federal Reserve and they’ll print some more.

    It’s how we do things nowadays.

  7. And all of this… the result of a slash and burn sociopathic campaign by Uncle Charlie, in the name of saving taxpayers their hard earned wages. Applauded by the same voters who elected George Jr. to a second term in Council, another on the ESJHS school board, and Country Supervisor. When the leadership of a City has polluted morality, the management follows suit.

  8. So, now we have money to throw around. Let’s find some more pockets for loose cash and change to stem the tide of police officers. Glad to see Sam has his priorities in place.