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Sacramento city manager proposes too much vacation time

by Staff

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Sacramento city manager Howard Chan gestures while speaking at a Sacramento City Council meeting on homeless Tuesday, June 27, 2023.

Sacramento city manager Howard Chan gestures while speaking at a Sacramento City Council meeting on homeless Tuesday, June 27, 2023.

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As the Sacramento City Council prepares to decide Tuesday night whether to grant City Manager Howard Chan an additional six weeks vacation, the proposal has curiously shifted from when the council illegally approved the package last month.

Unlike a December proposal that would have allowed Chan to cash in his extra vacation time, now he would be required to be on vacation and away from city hall for those six weeks.

The meaningless change remains tone-deaf to the basic point: As the city faces a worsening fiscal deficit that will require leadership by example, it is wrong for the city manager to ask for more time off than any other employee. And It would be wrong for the city council to approve it.

Chan already is the highest-paid city manager in California. Now he wants to be the city manager most absent from his job?

The city council has to rehear this matter because the December vote was illegal. Contrary to state law, the city held a special meeting requiring scant 24-hour notice on a matter relating to executive compensation. The council, at the time, voted to grant all charter officers (including the city clerk and city attorney) 5% raises and an additional 240 hours of vacation leave for Chan. After Bee reporter Theresa Clift asked about the legality of the special meeting, another one was scheduled for Tuesday.

That Chan’s vacation proposal has shifted reflects a potential change of heart by some council members. One council member who voted to approve all that vacation, Sean Loloee of District 2, has since resigned due to a federal indictment on various employment infractions relating to his grocery store businesses. That would mean Chan needs all five remaining supporters on the council to get all that vacation. Those supporters are Caity Maple, Lisa Kaplan, Eric Guerra, Rick Jennings and Karina Talamantes.

Ten weeks of vacation for a public employee is bordering on a gift of public funds. Under the proposal, Chan would be allowed to cash in the four weeks he accrues as a veteran employee. But this doesn’t matter — asking for that much leave is spectacularly poor judgment, both from him and the council members who have gone along with it.

Sadly, Chan seems determined to press the issue and make his council members look out of touch with our fiscal reality and basic common sense. Voting no (or abstaining) is a public slight of a city manager who works hard at his job. But, sadly, he’s asked for it. He has simply pushed too hard to improve his compensation with his unique managerial power over each council member. He has both diminished himself and the council in the process.

Either he or the council should do the right thing Tuesday night. Public employees don’t get 10 weeks of paid vacation for sound public reasons.

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Editorials represent the collective opinion of the The Sacramento Bee Editorial Board. They do not reflect the individual opinions of board members, or the views of Bee reporters in the news section. Bee reporters do not participate in editorial board deliberations or weigh in on board decisions.

The board includes Bee Executive Editor Colleen McCain Nelson, McClatchy California Opinion Editor Marcos Breton, opinion writer Tom Philp, opinion writer Robin Epley and op-ed editor Hannah Holzer.

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