City Generic - Photo courtesy of City Govt.
City Generic - Photo courtesy of City Govt.

City Council Votes to Extend and Cap the City Attorney’s Contract, Amend City Manager’s Contract

The City Council approved extending the City Attorney Karla Nieman’s contract for seven years, until 2029. Her contract will be capped at a salary of $350,000. Additionally, the Council amended the City Manager Tommy Gonzalez’s contract to implement a salary cap at $450,000.

In June, the City Council released the performance evaluations for both City Manager Tommy Gonzalez and City Attorney Karla Nieman. This year both Mr. Gonzalez’s and Ms. Nieman’s evaluations exceeded standards for the evaluation year encompassing June 2021 to June 2022.

In the evaluation for Ms. Nieman, the Council stated that she, “has effectively ensured that the City’s interests in utility matters and other significant litigation were well represented and positive outcomes were achieved for the benefit of the citizens of El Paso.”

Ms. Nieman on behalf of the City filed testimony asserting that El Paso-based customers were effectively subsidizing costs incurred by gas utilities in other parts of Texas more severely impacted by Winter Storm Uri. The legal settlement resulted in El Pasoans having to pay about a third of the original proposal, resulting in $196 million in savings to the ratepayers. In total, the work led by Ms. Nieman in representing the City in utility cases has resulted in approximately $232 million in savings for the citizens in El Paso.

The Council’s comments in the City Manager’s evaluation stated Mr. Gonzalez, “continues to meet and exceed expectations on all three categories: Citywide Goals, Core Values, and Leadership Assessment. Mr. Gonzalez is a results-oriented, strategic leader and has remained steadfast in delivering exceptional performance and results for the City financially, operationally, and developmentally, in spite of unprecedented challenges.”

On June 6, 2022, the Council voted to extend the City Manager’s previous contract for five years, until 2029. The previous contract included a 5 percent merit raise if the Council gives him an “exceeds standards” rating. While the salary cap was negotiated in exchange for other compensation and benefits, the amount saved in base salary will be redirected to support the Streets and Maintenance Department.

Under Gonzalez’s leadership, the City of El Paso has achieved $267 million in cost savings. Gonzalez has further strengthened El Paso’s financial stability by eliminating a $7.8 million General Fund deficit in 2014; eliminating a $27 million operating deficit in the mass transit department; eliminating an annual $1 million operating deficit at the City golf course; tripling the fund balance by increasing it by more than $98 million; captured State sales taxes for downtown hotels revitalization; and leading the City of El Paso team to achieve zero audit findings for six consecutive years. The City now provides year-end reporting to the City Council and has had seven consecutive years of General Fund surplus—all leading to maintaining the city’s double AA financial rating.

Earlier this year, Mr. Gonzalez earned the National Malcolm Baldrige Foundation E. David Spong Lifetime Leadership Achievement Award. The E. David Spong Lifetime Achievement Award is the highest honor the Baldrige Foundation bestows on an individual to recognize truly extraordinary service that has changed the world and has inspired others to do the same.


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