City of Omaha Finance Director Pam Spaccarotella, whose salary has been a source of City Hall controversy, will leave her position in November to go into business for herself.
Tuesday’s announcement came a week after Mayor Jim Suttle agreed to roll back a $25,000 raise that was awarded to her in August 2011 but made public only recently.
Spaccarotella said her decision had nothing to do with her salary, and was something she’s been considering for months.
“These plans were in place well before the raises became an issue,” she said.
Spaccarotella was an associate vice president at Sarpy County-based trucking company Werner Enterprises when she came to the city in July 2009.
She is credited with several accomplishments in her short government career. A multimillion-dollar budget shortfall she inherited has become a balanced budget. The city restored its AAA bond rating, which means it receives lower interest rates when it borrows money. She helped cut costs in the Fire Department and helped come up with a long-term street resurfacing plan.
She was instrumental in the purchase of 20 new police cruisers and new trucks for the Fire Department, an accomplishment she’s particularly proud of. When she started, some firetrucks were 25 years old. The average squad car had 114,000 miles.
“It was one of those things I really wanted to solve,” Spaccarotella said.
She also was a major backer of a proposed fire union contract that the City Council rejected last year.
The contract would have helped shore up the city’s shortfall in its police and fire pension fund.
The city still has no fire contract, and its pension shortfall remains a problem.
Spaccarotella’s salary has been a source of controversy since she was named to the position.
Spaccarotella started at a salary of $180,000, almost $80,000 higher than her predecessor. She later took a $40,000 salary cut after questions were raised about her pay.
Then last year, Suttle quietly gave Spaccarotella a $25,000 raise and continued paying her $165,000 for this year, even though the 2012 city budget didn’t account for that pay increase.
The council protested the raises given to Spaccarotella and other top city officials and last week passed a budget amendment in an attempt to roll back the raises.
In response, Suttle agreed to cut the salaries of three officials.
Spaccarotella’s salary was to drop as of Jan. 1. Instead, her resignation will take effect Nov. 1.
Although her salary has been attacked, she offered no criticism of her own in an interview Tuesday.
When asked about her time in city government, Spaccarotella said, “It’s more than what I hoped.”
Suttle, in a statement released Tuesday, praised Spaccarotella, saying her work exceeded his expectations. He said she saved the city millions of dollars and “is a shining example of how professionals from the private sector can make a major difference in the future of our city.”
“Pam Spaccarotella has helped this administration achieve monumental changes in city government, and it was with a heavy heart that I reluctantly accepted her resignation today,” Suttle said. “We were lucky to have a business professional like Pam guide our city through tough economic times.”
The timing of Spaccarotella’s announcement means that the mayor probably will fill the position on an interim basis. Suttle is up for re-election in May, which means it’s possible that any appointee would be out of a job by the middle of next year.
Council President Tom Mulligan said he’s sorry to see Spaccarotella leave. The two have had a good working relationship, he said, and he wishes her well.
Mulligan was one of the council members who made an issue of Spaccarotella’s pay raise. He said he stands by his complaint and believes it didn’t play a role in her decision.
“None of this issue was about her personal performance. She understands that,” he said.
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