In a perfect example of better late than never, Mayor Keller’s media people finally responded to my inquiry about which cities they surveyed regarding the large pay raises given to Keller's inner circle. I emailed them on May 15 asking what cities they used for salary comparisons to justify a massive raise for police chief Mike Geier, and big pay raises for other Keller staffers.
It was a simple question that should have taken an hour or two to answer. But those transparency fanatics in Keller's office took seven days to finally answer my simple questions. And get this: they answered only after ABQReport published my story about how Keller lied about the salary increases. Basically they were trying to blow me off. And they responded only after they got some negative publicity.
And when Keller's transparency lords took a week to answer my simple question they were snotty about it. They tried to dump on me for not telling them what my deadline was. Of course, that's bullshit because a reporter's deadline is always "as soon as possible." And they know it. If they don't, they're stupid and have no business being PR people.
And if they had any brains they would have answered my question immediately, because by trying to blow me off they made their delay, make that stonewalling, the story.
Bad, PR people. Bad. Really bad job.
Here's the snotty reply I got on May 22--seven days after my request--from Keller's PR hacks:
"Most of the time, journalists will include a deadline when they are working on a story—that helps us prioritize the many requests we get every day and helps the journalist make sure they’re getting the information they need in time to write an informative story. If you include that information in the future, we’ll be happy to provide requested information and answer questions before it passes. Additionally, while email is always welcome, there are also a number of other ways to reach us. My name is Jessie, and my number is (505) 768-3029. Feel free to give me a call to discuss any future stories you may have questions on."
Here's my reply to those twits:
"Thank you. We will research your findings and get this as an update to our story. I have taken the time to respond to you as soon as I received your email, that’s called common courtesy. For the future, you should consider promptly responding to inquiries, that way we know you are working on it. I know you are busy, but it only takes a couple seconds to let us know you have the email and will respond. Just like it just took me a minute to send you this email."
Now that we've written about a story that Keller's PR people created by trying to ignore me, let's get to the question of which cities Keller's people allegedly used in order to justify a massive pay hike for Geier: Here's the email I got from Keller's staff:
"The State of New Mexico – to whom we lost three high-level employees in just the last four months.
"A few examples from that survey: The city manager in El Paso makes $315,000 and the Tucson city manager makes $225,000. The Denver police chief made $218,286 in 2018 and the Tucson police chief made $188,754 in 2016."
For some reason Keller’s people still don’t want to part with the actual survey.
Using what has been provided, which is minimal, I do question using Denver and Colorado Springs in any comparison. The cost of living in those two cities are much higher than in Albuquerque. Tucson, El Paso and Oklahoma City are more appropriate to compare Albuquerque to. https://www.kiplinger.com/tool/real-estate/T010-S003-home-prices-in-100-top-u-s-metro-areas/index.php
Also, as KRQE reported, Albuquerque may have lost some employees to the State of New Mexico, but Governor Lujan-Grisham used the same reverse reasoning to raise her cabinet salaries dramatically. It seems like a never-ending charade to give large pay raises to the already highest paid workers state and city government while both the MLG and Keller offer crumbs to the thousands of city and state workers who bust their butts for us daily.
As for salaries, you can compare police and fire chiefs from around the nation at this 2018 Business Journal report.
When you use this tool remember, that this is only salary. Police chiefs in many cities receive other benefits such as a housing allowance. Without knowing all of the benefits, it is difficult to compare.
One thing I did learn, city managers make a lot of money. Maybe they should, but I believe Keller has put the cart before the horse in giving his staff raises. Raises should be based upon solid, positive, long term performance. After 18 months I am still unsure if Albuquerque is pulling out economically. Based upon recent events I am also very dubious of any claims that crime is now dramatically going lower.
I would not give pay raises to any of Keller’s inner circle until the city is going up economically and crime is proven to be going lower. I would also advise Keller and MLG to treat their regular workers equally to their inner circle of friends. That’s what good leaders do.
Lastly, one thought for the folks who run Kellers’ media contacts. Respond to questions in a timely manner. You don’t have to respond with the exact answer immediately, but take one minute, just one, and let the person sending you an email know that you have received it.
Treating people with common courtesy is a virtue that will get your boss a lot of accolades. Heck he will probably give you a 17 percent pay raise if you make him look good!