City Council utility committee chairman Bruce Harrell says his words were misconstrued in media reports about a $40,000 bonus granted to City Light superintendent Jorge Carrasco, and that he did not support the bonus.
According to a Harrell aide, the city council did approve approve the contract establishing Carrasco's salary "band" (a range of potential salaries) unanimously, but no one on the council was involved with the decision to grant the bonus—a point that was the subject of some confusion, as the Seattle Times reported. The bonus was allowed as part of Carrasco's contract, but not required, and the timing of the bonus was completely at Mayor Greg Nickels's discretion.
On his blog, Harrell writes:
[Nickels'] decision [to grant the bonus] was consistent with a 2003 ordinance approved by the City Council and consistent with Carrasco’s employment contract. However, these facts should not be construed as endorsing the $40,000 discretionary decision as critics of the Council would suggest.
Do I think it was prudent for the Mayor to issue an incentive bonus to the Superintendent at this time? No, that would not have been my preference. While some type of retention bonus and incentive bonus could have been justified, I would not have provided the maximum allowed under contract at a time when City Light must reduce its expenses, its wholesale revenues are declining and employee morale needs a boost. During tough times, it is critical to send the right message to your employees and rate-paying customers. I would only authorize the maximum if I believed it were absolutely imperative to the success of the organization.
I wrote about the controversy surrounding Carrasco's initial appointment and salary—at the time, the highest in the city's history—here.