Between 2017 and 2018, Gardner’s total payroll increased about $1 million.
Total gross payroll for the City of Gardner was $9,248,305.56 in 2017 and increased to $10,139.999.77 in 2018, according to information obtained under a Kansas Open Records request made by The Gardner News.
During that period, Laura Gourley, interim city administrator, saw her earnings increase about 18 percent and Jim Pruetting, GPD chief, saw an increase of about 3.5 percent.
The total monthly earnings, as originally supplied under the KORA, for Gourley, was $9,376.57 in January 2018 and $16,973.10 in 2019. In 2018 Gourley was chief finance officer, but she was promoted to city administrator after the resignation of Cheryl Harrison-Lee in September.
In a written statement, Gourley said additional information to that received from the original KORA was necessary to provide context. She received an 18.4 percent increase when promoted to interim city administrator.
An “apples to apples” comparison, she said, can be calculated beginning with a “clean/normal” bi-weekly pay period as the base. Annual wages are calculated over 2,080 hours. (52 weeks a year x 40 hours per week = 2,080). The 2019 comparison provided under the original KORA includes an additional pay period in January.  Merit pay changes also occur in January, and 26 pay periods per year causes fluctuations from other benefits deducted on a monthly basis, such as health insurance.
As finance director, Gourley said, her gross wages were $4,778.05, or $59.73/hour.  That’s ($59.725 x 80 hours for a two week pay period = $4,778). The 2018 wages change after becoming interim city administrator changed to $5,659.17 per biweekly pay period. ($5,659.17 divided by 80 hours = $70.714 /hour), or approximately an 18.4 percent increase for the promotion to interim.  The rate of change is calculated by “(new pay – previous pay) divided by previous pay)” or (($70.714/hour  – $59.725/hour) divided by $59.725/hour) = 0.18399 or 18.4 percent.
“My wages changed again slightly in 2019,” Gourley said. “I did not receive a 2019 merit increase because I was “interim,” but I did change some of my voluntary withholdings. That 2019 difference in gross wages (received under KORA) was not due to anything the city/taxpayers provided.”
Pruetting, according to the original request, saw his total monthly income increase from $8,510.28 in January 2018 to $13,839.30 in 2019.
However, according to Gourley’s followup statement, Pruetting received a 3.51 percent increase. Her calculations compared a “normal” 2018 biweekly pay period to a “normal” 2019 biweekly pay period are. (2018 biweekly gross wages ($4,513.47 divided by 80 hours = $56.418/hour); 2019 biweekly gross wages ($4,672.26 divided by 80 hours = $58.403/hour);   rate of change from 2018 to 2019 (($58.403/hour – $56.418/hour) divided by $56.418/hour) = .0351 or 3.51 percent  which was merit increase.
Pruetting was one of three top finalists for the city administrator position and was hired by the city council in their April 15 meeting.
Finalists were: Nicholas Edwards who is currently an assistant city manager in Lee’s Summit, Mo., Jim Pruetting, Gardner police chief and Brian Wilson, the Village Administrator in Bellevile, Wisc.
Both Edwards and Wilson are members of International City Managers Association (ICMA).
Harrison-Lee’s employment contract was for $161,000 annually. Harrison-Lee, resigned Sept. 10, and received a payout for $350,000.
In October, 2018, Gourley told council there had been multiple public inquiries regarding the amount paid to Harrison-Lee. She said the payout was immaterial. She detailed the buyout: beginning with the severance package of $260,000, approximately $86,000 was vacation pay which was shown as a liability and not budgeted for. Gourley said through the end of the year, everything is taken care of.
Gourley also said $260,000 – $86,000 in 2019 is $117,000 that could be recovered in salary savings, which occur each year due to turnover. She said that $57,000 is not covered through the end of 2019, but that every month spent with an interim city administrator represents a savings of approximately $12,000. She said there is also salary savings from the senior management analyst position which will not be backfilled while Matt Wolff is serving as interim finance director. The amount Harrison-Lee will receive for COBRA – health premiums – was not mentioned.
In March, 2019, Matt Wolff, who became city finance director, said that while overall expenditures from the general fund were 1.7 percent or $237,000 less than estimated, the salaries for administrative staff were $296,000 above estimates.