A vote on the contract of city administrator Ray Walden is expected to take place Sept. 14, according to mayor Kim Steelman.
“We are expected to vote on it (the contract) in open session Tuesday night (Sept. 14),” Steelman told The Salem News Friday.
Walden has been city administrator since April of 2014. His contract was scheduled to automatically renew Aug. 31, per terms of the contract. The contract states it will renew each year automatically without a vote of aldermen.
The Board of Aldermen met Sept. 1 for a special closed session meeting called by Steelman to discuss personnel, and she told The Salem News Sept. 2 via text message that the board was still in negotiations with Walden’s contract.
Tuesday's regular board of aldermen meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. As of 1 p.m. Monday The Salem News had not received an agenda for the meeting and could not verify that Walden’s contract is on the agenda..
The Salem News contacted each of the four aldermen Friday afternoon for comment on Walden’s contract renewal. They stated:
• “The board plans on releasing a statement on this,” alderman Shawn Bolerjack responded.
• “At least a few members of the board will have statements prepared for the meeting. I would prefer to wait until the entire vision of the board can be shared,” said aldermen Kevin James.
• “I look forward to sharing my thoughts in open session with The Salem News and the public,” said alderman Greg Parker.
• “I believe this is something that we will be going over at the meeting Tuesday night,” said alderwoman Kala Sisco. “Before stepping into the role of alderwoman (this will be Sisco’s first regular meeting), I didn’t realize all the roles and expectations of the city administrator. With all of the recent changes to the board, I’m excited to see the progress we make going forward and implementing changes that will not only make the administrator position more successful, but the community as a whole.”
Walden, as city administrator, is responsible for the overall performance of city of Salem employees, and according to Section 115.580 of city code, “The City Administrator shall be the Chief Administrative Officer of the City Government. Except as otherwise specified by ordinance or by the law of the State of Missouri, the City Administrator shall be responsible for coordinating and generally supervising the operations of all departments of the City of Salem, Missouri.”
Walden is the budget officer of the city and is required to make quarterly reports to the mayor and board of aldermen showing “the financial condition of the City in relation to the budget.”
Walden and the city in general has come under fire over the past two years due to the city’s inability to fix utility billing issues as well as for other projects that have been delayed or never completed. Also during the past few months, city clerk Mary Happel was fired and mayor Brad Nash resigned.
Aldermen have voiced their concerns several times over the past year about performance by the city, and according to Section 115.570 of city code, can remove Walden with a majority vote.
The code states in full:
“The City Administrator shall serve at the pleasure of the appointing authority. The City Administrator may be removed by a majority vote of the full Board of Aldermen. If requested, the Mayor and Board of Aldermen shall grant the City Administrator a public hearing within thirty (30) days following notice of such removal. During the interim, the Mayor, with the approval of a majority of the full Board of Aldermen, or by a majority vote of the full Board of Aldermen without the Mayor's approval, may suspend the City Administrator from duty, but shall continue his/her salary and, if after the hearing, removal becomes final, shall pay his/her salary for two (2) calendar months following the removal date, provided however, that if the City Administrator shall be removed for acts of dishonesty or acts of moral turpitude, such salary shall not be continued.”
Walden’s contract also states, “nothing in this agreement shall be construed to prevent, limit or otherwise interfere with the right of the City to non-renew the employment of the Administrator at the expiration of the term, or to terminate the services of the Administrator at any time.”
During 2019-2020 Walden’s salary was $76,152.96 per year and was increased to $77,667.20 annually for 2020-21 as the city was in the midst of the billing issues, according to the city’s partial response to a public records request last year. He gets three weeks of vacation and accumulates .77 hours sick leave per week. He also receives 1.54 per weeks admin leave and qualifies for the city retirement program. No dollar amount for the retirement program was given.
Walden receives up to $550 monthly toward health insurance, and according to his contract, a cell phone.
Walden received a three-year contract in 2015 with a 1.5% increase in pay each year. There was no personnel evaluation during those three years, according to the public records response from former city clerk Mary Happel. In August 2019 he received a .5% merit raise and 2% cost of living raise.
Renewal of the contract is automatic for one year unless cancelled, meaning that contract is still in effect. Aldermen apparently let the contract renew without a vote prior to August 31 of last year, in the midst of the utility billing issues, because no vote for 2020 was reported to The Salem News and the contract automatically renewed.
The Salem News contacted Walden Friday for comment, which he did not provide before deadline Monday.