He will earn a total of almost $1 million in salary over the next three years, but incoming Cambridge City Manager Richard Rossi is also walking away from a big payday to take his new job.
Under a contract approved by the Cambridge City Council by a 7-2 vote late Monday, Rossi will earn a $330,000 salary for the next three years beginning July 1. He’ll also get the use of a city vehicle, a cell phone, a tablet, and a $120,000 life insurance policy.
But Rossi is also giving up about $575,000 in back pay for unused sick leave that he has accrued on the job in his role as deputy city manager since the 1980s.
Rossi, 66, who has called his appointment as city manager a dream come true, said he was willing to give up the chance to buy back the unused sick leave in an effort to be fair to the city.
“It was never my intention to walk away from the city with $600,000 in my pocket,” Rossi said. “I think there is more to life than money.”
A city employee for more than 40 years, Rossi has served as deputy city manager since 1981. In deputy post, he is earning $278,000 this fiscal year and was due for a raise in July.
Despite the lucrative contract Rossi has signed to become city manager in July, his pay will not match that earned by retiring city manager Robert Healy, who is being paid $347,000 this year.
City Councilor David Maher called Rossi’s willingness to give up most of the $615,000 in pay for his unused sick leave one of the “biggest wins” for taxpayers in his new contract.
Maher said the provision of unused sick leave “buy back” pay was common in the 1980s when Rossi was hired as deputy city manager.
At the time, Rossi said he was in his 40s with several young children and he looked at the benefit as potential severance pay. But over the years as Rossi remained on the job, the unused sick pay continued to mount.
Maher said that under Rossi’s new contract, the incoming city manager has agreed to have the pay for his unused sick leave capped at $42,500, as it is for other senior, non union employees in the city.
“We are very excited about the new city manager coming on board July 1,” Maher said.
The council's vote in December to appoint Rossi as Healy's successor has drawn complaints from some, who say the council made a hasty decision and did not live up to a pledge to conduct an extensive search for the next city manager.
Cambridge resident James Williamson told the council Monday that the decision to appoint Rossi to the post was a “stealth attack” on the promise for an open and inclusive search process. Williamson said he thought the city should include a provision in Rossi’s contract saying that he would only serve as city manager for three years.
“Never mind that he’s going to get $330,000 a year, never mind the free car and the maintenance, never mind the free iPad and the iPhone,” said Williamson. “What concerns me is that this contract is going to be for three year with an option to renew it.”