Why did ‘Fontana city manager’ make $932,623 last year? City provides explanation July 1, 2021

When State Controller Betty Yee recently published self-reported payroll data for cities and counties for the year 2020, the listed earnings of one particular employee stood out.

Yee said the Fontana city manager made a whopping $932,623 last year, which would have made that unidentified person by far the highest-paid city employee in the entire state (out of 304,727 employees).

As it turns out, the unidentified person was former City Manager Ken Hunt, who received a huge million-dollar settlement agreement from the City of Fontana after abruptly retiring in July of 2019.

The information provided on Yee’s Government Compensation in California website reflects the pay for not one specific individual but three — Hunt’s retirement payout and separation agreement, as well as the salaries and benefits packages of both Mark Denny (the new city manager) and Michael Milhiser (who briefly served as interim city manager), according to a statement by the City of Fontana on June 30. Denny and Milhiser earned a combined total of $229,825 last year, the city said.

AFTER HUNT RETIRED, after 30 years of service in Fontana (including 20 years as city manager from 1999 to 2019), he received a settlement agreement that totaled $1,127,378.45, the city said.

Some of that money was paid to him in the latter months of 2019, but most of it came in the period of Jan. 18–31 of 2020, when he was given $312,864.95 in settlement pay and $476,771.58 in leave payoff, the city said.

While Hunt was still in Fontana, he had one of the highest salaries of any city manager in the state.

Many local residents were surprised when the city issued a press release announcing Hunt was suddenly leaving, considering that Hunt and the members of the City Council had publicly seemed to be working well together and the city was in a relatively strong financial position.

Right after Hunt’s retirement, Milhiser was appointed interim city manager while the city recruited for a permanent replacement.

Then in April of 2020, Denny was named city manager, a position in which he works directly with the City Council on all policy issues while also heading up the city’s Executive Leadership Team. Denny was approved by a 3-1 vote of the City Council.

Denny’s annual salary is $297,675, effective in January of this year.

Source: Russell Ingold, Fontana Herald News