After threatening to resign over disagreements with Portland’s elected mayor, City Manager Jon Jennings is poised to receive a contract extension next week.

The City Council is expected to vote on the three-year deal Monday night, as well as 2 percent salary increases for Jennings and the city’s two other council-appointed administrators – City Clerk Katherine Jones and Corporation Counsel Danielle West-Chuhta. The administrators would also get cost-of-living increases to be determined in future years.

Jennings’ new contract comes after he raised doubts this summer about returning or even stepping down before the end of his current deal, which runs through July.

At the time, disagreements with Mayor Ethan Strimling had just spilled into public view. Strimling accused Jennings at a July meeting of trying to thwart his policy agenda by not allowing him to speak to staff without the manager’s permission.

During the four-hour meeting, all eight of the other city councilors sided with Jennings, who argued that giving Strimling unfettered access to staff would violate the city charter, which gives the manager control of staff and daily operations. Jennings threatened to resign immediately if the council sided with the mayor, whom he accused of lying repeatedly.

Since then, Jennings and Strimling have resumed meeting on a weekly basis. During a joint interview in October, both men said the meetings have helped restore trust between them, though Jennings noted some differences remain.

Jennings said Thursday he is honored to serve as manager and is proud of what the city has accomplished, including updating technology to offer more online services and advocating for city staff, so they have the resources they need to be successful.

“I feel strongly we have made a lot of progress in the 2½ years and I want to continue the momentum,” he said.

“I was feeling uncertain as to whether the mayor and I were going to be able to have the kind of working relationship that is so needed and vital to moving the city forward,” Jennings said. “But in the last several months, we have sat down and hashed things out and we’re working really effectively right now.”

Although Strimling has previously characterized Jennings as being an opponent of his policy goals, the mayor said in a written statement that Jennings is the “right man for the job.”

Strimling said in an interview that the weekly meetings are allowing them to work through issues and that Jennings is more responsive to his requests. Jennings has also improved morale in City Hall, he said.

“I have always felt that Jon is very good at the nuts and bolts stuff. That has been his greatest strength,” Strimling said. “He and I have been working really well together in the last four months. He’s been very responsive to what my needs are around policy and constituent requests.”

The contract extension and raises come after the council conducted its annual employee evaluations in a closed session Monday. And it comes one year after the council gave Jennings an $18,500 raise, bringing his salary to $166,550. That 12 percent raise was seen as a vote of confidence in Jennings, who by then had been battling the mayor for more than a year.

The contract extension would typically be voted on at two separate meetings, but the council’s agenda for Monday indicates that Strimling will ask to have the second reading waived to allow for a final vote Monday.

If approved, Jennings’ contract would be extended to July 13, 2021.

His salary beginning in July will be $169,813 and he will automatically receive whatever cost-of-living increase is given to other non-union employees. The contract also includes an additional $100 a month for his vehicle allowance, which would increase from $500 to $600. He would not get additional compensation for miles driven.

Benefits for Jennings, who will now get 25 days of vacation at the beginning of each year instead of accruing four weeks over the course of a year, will increase the longer he stays with the city.

“The manager has done an exemplary job for the citizens and employees of our city, and he has the strong support of the mayor and City Council,” Councilor David Brenerman said in a written statement. “When we have a leader of his quality, it is important to keep him here in Portland.”

He will be eligible for bonuses at the beginning of each contract year if he meets goals established by the council. The maximum additional bonus would be between 3 and 5 percent of his base salary, depending on the contract year.

The city’s contribution to his retirement also escalates. Next year, the city will pay 13 percent of his base salary, up from 12 percent, into his retirement fund, while contributing 15 percent and 16 percent in subsequent years.

The council can still remove the manager without cause, but that, too, would be more expensive under the new agreement.

The previous contract committed the council to paying Jennings half his annual salary if he was removed without cause. The new agreement doubles that to a full year’s salary if he’s terminated in the first year and 13 months and 14 months for subsequent years. That’s in addition to a year’s worth of health coverage.

By comparison, Xavier Botana, superintendent of Portland Public Schools, made in $148,000 in 2016, while Strimling made $71,100.

Randy Billings can be reached at 791-6346 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: randybillings

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