December 21, 2014

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Oberlin official collects checks in two cities

OBERLIN — Being in two places at one time is not an easy feat. Yet Oberlin City Manager Eric Norenberg managed to do just that — at least on paper.

Norenberg worked out a deal with city officials in Mesa, Ariz., — where he was departing as the information technology services leader — that had him on the payroll for both cities for weeks.

As a result, Norenberg received more than $10,000 in extra pay from Mesa, collected after he left the bustling desert city and while he was still getting familiar with the workings of Oberlin city government as the city’s newest leader. 

Norenberg, who is making $100,000 as Oberlin city manager, started his gig in Lorain County on Oct. 22. But before leaving Mesa on Oct. 15, he worked out a deal where he was allowed to spread out more than 250 hours of accumulated vacation and holiday time into biweekly paychecks that kept him on that city’s payroll until Dec. 1.

Reaching that magic date made him eligible to receive a lump sum payment of $10,207 from a now-defunct stability pay program, which is offered to Mesa employees hired before summer 1988 despite being discontinued in 1992 because of financial concerns for the city.

“It’s not really a bonus,” Norenberg said. “It’s not designed to keep veteran employees from leaving for higher-paying jobs. I know because that wasn’t the case with me. It was designed to attract highly skilled employees to the city with adequate compensation and, in that regard, it has done very well for the city.”

Mesa city officials said while the deal is not typical of that given to departing employees, they see nothing wrong with what Norenberg did.

 “We do not have a policy against such deals. Plus, we are legally obligated to pay for any accrued time,” said Donna Salami, Mesa’s assistant human resources director. “He just maximized his benefits, which is probably an asset to his new employer because it shows he thinks outside the box.”

Norenberg landed on the Mesa payroll on June 22, 1987, and has worked continuously for the city until he left earlier this year.

“In my 20-plus years in Mesa, I would have to say that I have given a lot in the way of effort and sweat into the jobs I have held for the city,” he said. “I gave it my all and part of the compensation was my salary and stability pay.”

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chronicle.com.