OCEANSIDE — Oceanside City Attorney John Mullen received an $8,500 raise from City Council without fanfare on Sept. 10. His salary is now $229,870 annually and in parity with City Manager Steve Jepsen who was hired a year ago.
The city attorney and city manager are hired and awarded raises by the City Council.
Their salaries are linked together in a parity agreement that states they should receive equal compensation.
City staff explained that if either the city manager or city attorney has an increase or decrease in salary, the other’s salary usually mirrors the action upon City Council approval.
Jepsen was hired in November 2013 at a salary of $231,840 and a comfortable compensation package if he is let go.
His salary tops that of his predecessor Peter Weiss, who was paid $223,345 plus compensation, and who now serves as a city consultant.
Following Weiss’ resignation as city manager, Councilman Jack Feller suggested Jepsen, former Oceanside city manager and at that time Yuba City manager, be offered the position. City Council voted 3-2 to hire Jepsen without holding a national search for candidates.
The hiring process brought up some differences of opinion.
Last October, Feller voiced his support for Jepsen.
“He started an awful lot of good things here,” Feller said. “He knows the cost of things, and what’s necessary to make a coastal city thrive.”
At that time Mayor Jim Wood voiced concerns about the hiring process, and said he would have preferred to have gone through a formal search process to find a city manager the entire City Council agrees upon.
“It was kind of a done deal in the back room,” Wood said. “They didn’t want to go any further.”
Today City Council unanimously supports Jepsen and his performance since he returned to the position.
“I’m happy with him trying to do the right things,” Wood said.
Wood added Mullen does an admirable job and deserves the salary increase.
“The attorney has done very well and is deserving of it,” Wood said.
Mullen’s salary was last adjusted in 2010.
City staff said the attorney’s latest salary increase was overlooked at the time the city manager was hired.
“We neglected to look at the city attorney contract,” the staff member said.
Eighty hours of Mullen’s accrued vacation leave will be sold back to the city to cover this year’s salary increase, and neutralize part of the financial impact on the city budget.
His CalPERS costs will increase by $2,264, and be paid for by General Fund reserves for employee wages.
Councilman Gary Felien, who is often outspoken about PERS increases, said the attorney’s raise was a matter of procedure.