North Tahoe PUD OKs three-year CEO contract; base salary is $185,000 | SierraSun.com

North Tahoe PUD OKs three-year CEO contract; base salary is $185,000

Margaret Moran
mmoran@sierrasun.com

Duane Whitelaw

KINGS BEACH, Calif. — Duane Whitelaw is officially the permanent leader of the North Tahoe Public Utility District and no longer restricted by his status in California's retirement pension program in terms of receipt of district benefits and pay.

Last week, the NTPUD board of directors in a 3-0 vote approved a three-year employment agreement with Whitelaw as the district's general manager/CEO, effective Dec. 14. Directors Tim Ferrell and Lane Lewis were absent.

Under the agreement, Whitelaw will be paid an annual salary of $185,000 and is eligible for an annual bonus at the board's discretion.

The potential bonus amount is not specified in the contract. However, it is anticipated to be based on how closely board expectations are met, how well Whitelaw represents the district, and other matters associated with organization governance, said Pam Emmerich, NTPUD technology and public information administrator.

“I am committed to give the district the time it takes to get the job done at the level that the board expects.”Duane Whitelaw

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Whitelaw's base salary is 13.5 percent higher than his previous annual district pay of $160,000, which was allocated on an hourly basis.

His new salary was determined based on the pay of leaders of neighboring public utility districts such as Northstar, Tahoe City and Squaw Valley, said John Bergmann, president of the NTPUD board.

Whitelaw's pay is a 12.2 percent increase from former NTPUD general manager/CEO Paul Schultz's base salary of $162,357.

The primary reason for that is Whitelaw's extensive experience as a special district leader and level of education, Bergmann said.

Meanwhile, the employment agreement makes no mention of a future salary increase or the potential for one.

It also states that Whitelaw will not receive a cost of living allowance, which is designed to offset higher prices in costly geographic areas.

As for benefits, the NTPUD will provide Whitelaw with life/accidental death insurance, long-term disability insurance, and medical, dental and vision insurance for him and his dependents.

He will also receive a vehicle allowance of $500 per month for use of his personal vehicle for business purposes, a cellphone reimbursement of $50 per month, and a clothing allowance of $500 a year.

The total value of Whitelaw's benefits package was not available for this story, as the district's human resource representative has been out of the office.

"I'm very pleased with the terms and appreciate the board for renewing the agreement," Whitelaw said in a recent interview. "Before, I couldn't make the full plunge (into the role) because I was retired."

CalPERS: Working after retirement

This spring, the board approved appointing Whitelaw as the district's interim CEO/GM, effective March 1 until Dec. 31, 2015, or earlier.

Under those interim terms, Whitelaw was paid at an hourly rate of $76.92, with his hours limited to a maximum of 960 per fiscal year (July 1-June 30).

Whitelaw's hourly pay was his only compensation, and he was not eligible to receive any benefits, incentives or any other form of compensation, due to his status with the California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS) as a retired public employee collecting pension.

Whitelaw retired from the North Tahoe Fire Protection District, a CalPERS employer, in 2012, after serving as fire chief for 21 years.

CalPERS retirees working in any capacity for a CalPERS employer, which includes the NTPUD, cannot work more than 960 hours in a fiscal year; must be paid an hourly rate that's within the salary schedule for the position; and cannot receive additional compensation or benefits.

"These restrictions are intended to prevent the 'double-dipping' of a retiree receiving a monthly CalPERS retirement benefit while also receiving a permanent position's salary from a CalPERS employer," according to CalPERS.

However, a CalPERS retiree can work as a retired annuitant in a temporary position and continue to receive retirement benefits, as was the case with Whitelaw.

While serving as interim NTPUD general manager/CEO from March to December of this year, Whitelaw collected $111,645.22, said CalPERS spokesperson Amy Morgan.

Yet, appointment to any permanent position with a CalPERS employer, whether on a part-time or full-time basis, requires reinstatement from retirement. Otherwise, both the employee and employer could face penalties.

To be reinstated, one must have a firm start date or hire date from a CalPERS employer, and submit a reinstatement application that must be approved.

CalPERS reviewed and approved Whitelaw's reinstatement application, Morgan confirmed.

Whitelaw was reinstated from retirement into active employment effective Dec. 15, she said, meaning he will no longer receive his retirement benefit allowance.

Since his reinstatement went into effect in the middle of a month, Whitelaw will receive "partial" January payment, Morgan said, with following retirement benefit payments ceasing.

Now, as an active permanent employee, Whitelaw is able to receive benefits from the NTPUD, as reflected in Whitelaw's employment agreement effective through Dec. 13, 2018.

Future employment

Whitelaw is considered an at-will employee of the NTPUD board, and as such, can be terminated prior to the expiration of the employment agreement.

Cause for termination includes a willful agreement breach, habitual neglect of duties, conviction of a felony or misdemeanor involving "moral turpitude," and death.

Otherwise, non-renewal of the agreement at its end can be decided by either Whitelaw or the board with or without cause.

The district board will provide Whitelaw with a performance evaluation on an annual basis on or around the anniversary of the employment agreement date. In addition, the board and Whitelaw agree to meet at least quarterly to discuss Whitelaw's performance and to ensure expectations and directions are clear.

"I am committed to give the district the time it takes to get the job done at the level that the board expects," Whitelaw said. " … As long as the board is satisfied with my performance, I'll at least be here through the term of this agreement."

Whitelaw beat out four other finalists and more than 150 applicants for the NTPUD GM/CEO job after the it was announced last November that the board was parting ways with Schultz.

Several NTPUD directors attributed the board's action to a desire for a leader who will more frequently engage the community.

"Duane has long had relationships with many community leaders on local, federal, state and county levels," Bergmann said recently. "As our GM, many of these have been re-kindled, and we as a board have benefitted from their perspectives, which he's brought back to us."

As an active employee, Whitelaw will be able to earn additional service credit toward a subsequent retirement.

Upon a subsequent retirement, pension benefits will be recalculated based on total years of service, highest final pay and a benefit factor, according to a previous report.

By the numbers

Below is a look at various figures associated with Duane Whitelaw’s new 3-year GM/CEO contract:

$185,000: Annual base salary (does not include potential for bonus)

13.5: percent increase in base salary from interim contract of $160,000 (paid hourly)

12.2: percent increase in base salary from former GM Paul Schultz

$500: Monthly allowance for personal use of vehicle

$50: Monthly reimbursement for cellphone use

$500: Annual allowance for clothing

Source: NTPUD