City Manager Jarel LaPan Hill is set to be paid more than $35,000 for unused vacation hours when she exits her post in January after about two years on the job.

According to an email from city Human Resources Director Bernadette Salazar, LaPan Hill had 420 hours — or about 10½ weeks — of unused vacation time as of Thursday that will have to be paid out when she leaves.

If the vacation time is paid at her hourly rate of $84 — the highest hourly wage in Santa Fe government — and she takes no more vacation time before leaving, LaPan Hill stands to depart with $35,280, before taxes, or about one-fifth of her annual salary.

The potential payout is more than the lowest-paid city employee will make in a year, following approval of a plan to set the minimum city worker wage at $15 an hour, or $31,000 annually.

LaPan Hill said Friday that her payout is just “part of the way these things work.”

“It is sort of standard procedure,” LaPan Hill said. “All employees have their vacation leave paid out. In this position, my position as city manager, you are on call all the time, and there is not a lot of opportunity to take leave.”

LaPan Hill joined the city in March 2018 as chief of staff, a position created in 2016 under former City Manager Brian Snyder, at a salary of $88,000 a year after working on Mayor Alan Webber’s election campaign.

Over a year later, LaPan Hill was named interim city manager, replacing outgoing City Manager Erik Litzenberg, ultimately earning the job permanently at a $155,000-a-year salary.

She was bumped to $175,000 a year in 2020, with a provision in her contract that her salary would be reviewed at the beginning of each fiscal year.

Last month, LaPan Hill announced that she was resigning Jan. 12, saying she wanted to spend more time with her two young children after the tumultuous time of the pandemic. She was named the permanent city manager a few months before the pandemic hit.

She is slated to be replaced by John Blair, who most recently worked as deputy superintendent of the state’s Regulation and Licensing Department.

A vote to confirm the pick is scheduled for the Jan. 12 City Council meeting.

According to an annual leave chart provided by LaPan Hill, exempt employees — those who are not paid hourly — can carry over any unused annual leave to the next calendar year, while union and other city employees are capped each year depending on the number of years employed by the city.

LaPan Hill said there are about 50 other exempt city employees who are not subject to carryover caps.

“When an employee separates from the City, they are paid out their accumulated annual leave hours at the current rate of pay,” Salazar wrote in an email. “This has been the policy for several years, likely decades, to include annual leave payouts for previous City Managers, Directors, the City Clerk, who were promoted during their tenure.”



Salazar in an email said the city encourages its employees to take vacations as needed.

LaPan Hill said the city has a policy that allows nonexempt employees to carry over hours year to year, but it has to be approved by an administrator.

Webber said it’s not uncommon for city officials to receive such payouts when they leave government positions but added he was willing to defer to the city’s human resources team on whether the policy needs to be revised.

He pointed to former city clerk Yolanda Vigil, who received nearly $93,000 for unused vacation time when she resigned in 2020.

Vigil had worked for the city since 1980 and became city clerk in 1994.

At the time of her resignation, she was earning an annual salary of $105,505.60.

“I think — along with just how much the job requires of people — they don’t take time off; they feel compelled to stay and do the work and not utilize vacation time,” Webber said.

Webber said while the city doesn’t pay “top dollar” for employees, it balances it out with attractive benefits packages.

According to city personnel, exempt employees who have worked for the city for at least a year and no more than five years accrue vacation hours at 8.85 percent of hours worked per pay period.

Regular employees earn 5.77 percent of hours worked.

LaPan Hill does not stand to receive a standard “severance package” because her employment was not terminated, per her contract, but she will collect a $5,000 retention bonus for staying on the job until the completion of Webber’s first term at the start of the year.

She denied rumors she’d spent time amid the pandemic working remotely outside of city limits, a rumor that circulated on social media.

LaPan Hill, only the third woman to hold the position, is Webber’s third city manager during his first term; Brian Snyder had the job prior to Webber being elected.

Webber later asked Snyder to resign after it came to light that Snyder violated a city policy covering incentive pay. Snyder had approved pay raises that would have cost the city close to $400,000 without City Council approval.

Litzenberg took the position after Snyder and resigned in 2019.

(26) comments

Christina Gill

At approximately 84.00 and hour that would be 416 hours of unused vacation time over a 3 year period. Did salaried employees who worked at home during the pandemic actually have to account for the time they worked and how is it that she accured over 100 hours of vacation pay a year. Something is not adding up here. Webber does not seem to be looking out for his constituents, only his politic comrades.

Harvey Morgan II

This is a nice perk, and it is not newsworthy nor illegal for her to collect. It does need to be remembered when government employees whine about their pay scale versus the private sector pay scale. A lot of us in the private sector are use it or lose it employees.

Even in the private sector if we give a hoot about our responsibilities at our workplace sometimes a vacation just doesn’t happen.

Khal Spencer

[thumbup]

Stefanie Beninato

It used to be that exempt employees would get comp time for overtime like attending evening meetings and they would have to use it within a certain period of time or lose it. That was separate from vacation time--I too wonder how anyone can authoritatively say that any employee working from home actually worked a full work week. What tracks their hours? There are city employees who leave their place of work to get christmas decorations or to go shopping--do we pay for that too?

Kathy Krickhahn

Some of you folks should get a grip, and perhaps a job in the actual private sector. Accrued vacation time payouts are standard and vanilla in corporate jobs. And to question that a true professional, of any kind, who works from home works anything less than a "full" work week is insulting. I have no doubt that there are city employees who are skirting their responsibilities, but you have cited absolutely no evidence that this is the case here.

Khal Spencer

[thumbup]

Jeff Varela

Why do exempt employees accrue annual leave to begin with? These employees are paid their exempt salaries no matter how many hours they work each week. This is another example of stale policies and mismanagement at City Hall, that Webber doesn't seem to know how to address.

Khal Spencer

"Why do exempt employees accrue annual leave to begin with? "

Because they work the rest of the time?

Stan Biderman

Seems like whatever the topic the same whiners have an opinion.

Chris Mechels

Overlooked; the path of John Blair. He first appeared at SOS with Maggie, as her deputy, paid $120k, in 2016. This was later increased to $135k; Maggie makes $85k.

Leaving to run for Congress, Blair returned to feed at RLD, at (only) $116k, as deputy to Linda Trujillo. Now it seems he's up for $175k as SF City Manager. Nice! We have no idea what he's capable of, outside of being a political operative. It certainly points to a failure of any oversight in these matters. In an ideal world the City Council would question his credentials, before they approve the appointment. Instead they Rubber Stamp... like the Senate does for MLG's cabinet appointments. No wonder our state doesn't work, this system of "governance" is insane.

Jeff Varela

...and the political party fraternity continues in SF. Political patronage at its best. Stay tuned for more political caregiving from the Webber administration.

Mike Andredi

Welcome to Santa Fe, New Mexico Comrade!

paul pacheco

This may be a dumb question…but I wonder where the money to pay her comes from? Not taxpayers, nah! She has such a beautiful smile too!

Henry R.

Well said Celia.

Andrew Lucero

Well, when you look at her overall job performance, it seems to me that she has been on vacation for the last 3 years.

paul pacheco

Andrew, you almost, always, hit the nail on the head!

Jim Montevallo

The city is a dung show. They allow our employees to accrue vacation like cash while they work at home and get nothing done, they accrue twice as much sick time as vacation time, many within a year or so of retirement suddenly get FMLA and leave early and do nothing for a year and then collect pension, they never get reviews, they get pay increases regardless of performance and now weird webber wants to throw totally needless retention bonuses on top of it.

We also have more city employees per capita than any other city of this size.

We get played coming and going. The fool "re-org" could have corrected some of this, say a use-it-or-lose it vacation policy to start, but webber has zero leadership and was using the office to get votes, not correct the city's silly ways.

Mike Johnson

Just more evidence of the sweetheart deals made by the mayor, and approved by city council, that wastes city money. You scratch my back, I scratch yours, typical NM politics, cronyism, nepotism, and last place forever in America.

Khal Spencer

Well, if she earned that vacation and never used it, it's her windfall and I don't see the point of getting huffy.

I had a similar problem back at the U of Hawaii: fourteen (not two--that is a possible issue for the governing body to look at) years of service and I rarely took much vacation. It was the old "publish or perish" conundrum and I didn't want to perish. In fact, one year I was capped out so I took "vacation" for a week and told everyone in the Geology Dept. to leave me alone while I sat in my office and got caught up on my journal reading and writing while taking mid day bike rides.

So when I finally resigned and left Paradise for Bombtown, both the University and I were astounded to find out I was owed four months of vacation, i.e., the cap, which was nice, as the bills to pay on moving to Los Alamos, buying a car, renovating the house, and waiting for my better half to settle in and find a job made it nice to still have that residual U of H paycheck as well as my new one.

Take care, Jarel!

Khal Spencer

Mind you, I think that is excessive accrual for such a short period of employment. The Governing Body ought to address that. But paid vacation should be there for any job where you want good people. Good people apply for good jobs.

Leo Ortiz

Sounds pretty dystopian at the City. You have the kings, queens, and peasants. My tax dollars at work providing non-capped vacations. Geez. I’m a manager and I force my employees to take vacations when they are in use or lose status. It’s not healthy and brings burn out to the employee. The City is operationally deficient. LePan needs to look into this as her last project for the City.

Dan Frazier

The rich get richer, and the poor get poorer, and Santa Fe makes sure. I wonder how many people in Santa Fe never take vacations, and will never see any vacation pay? Seems like the City could save a lot of money by capping unused vacation time each year for all employees. That would definitely encourage people to take their vacations.

Khal Spencer

Well, Dan, some guy once dressed me down on a bike ride over on the Windward side of Oahu. I was a little shocked at his "why should you people at the University get vacation pay? I don't"

Finally, after settling down and holding my tongue, I replied, "well, maybe everyone else should get vacation pay and benefits, too. After all, this is a liberal state with strong unions--why don't workers have it better? Maybe you ought to support worker benefits for everyone rather than strip away someone else's." He grumped to himself and that was it for the conversation.

Jake Greene

You're exactly right. Instead of concerning oneself with benefits some people have, progressive thinkers will concern themselves over why others do not have those same benefits. It's the difference between fighting over the size of your piece of the pie and enlarging the pie instead.

Celia Ludi

People forget - if they ever knew - that the reason government employees in many cases have better benefits these days than private sector employees is because there was a time when those benefits were standard in the private sector. Paid time off, pensions, employer-paid health care insurance, all of that, often plus some kind of profit-sharing/stock distribution/etc. were all available to many private sector employees. Largely because the unions insisted on it. Government, to compete with the private sector, had to offer similar benefits. But, because government is accountable to "the people", those benefits had to be adopted in city ordinances or state statutes so everyone knew what was on offer. After private sector employers weakened the unions, they started cutting the benefits the unions had worked for, and found new and better uses for the money saved by cutting labor expenses. Most of that money ended up in shareholder and executive pockets instead of worker pockets.

I don't have a problem with paying an outgoing employee their accumulated annual leave. I agree with Khal and Jake - the answer is to work for the same benefits for everyone.

Re the grumbly comments about exempts accruing annual leave at higher rates than non-exempts. Annual leave for both exempt and non-exempt employees is based on a percentage of the number of hours actually worked. The standard work week for everyone is 40 hours, or 80 hours a 2-week pay period. Everyone is required to take leave if they work less than the standard. Most non-exempt employees, and certainly union employees, are paid overtime if they work more than the standard. Exempt employees, on the other hand, aren't compensated for hours worked over the standard, except, apparently, in annual leave. (And, of course, "exempt" means exempt from the rules that require a certain process before disciplinary action up to and including termination may be implemented. Exempt employees, unlike non-exempts, can be fired at any time, for any reason or no reason.)

Khal Spencer

[thumbup] A decent size pie that we all share equitably.

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