NEW BERN, CRAVEN COUNTY - Following a decision by New Bern officials to grant the city manager, Mike Epperson, a $30,000 bonus over the next three years, Epperson issues a statement saying he will not accept it.
Epperson issued the following statement to NewsChannel 12. The statement is an email he sent to the mayor and board members:
Mayor Bettis and all Board Members:
After careful consideration I want to inform you that I respectfully decline the Board's offer of an annual bonus.
As I stated last night I never asked for this bonus nor did I have discussions with any individual Alderman or the Board as a whole regarding a bonus. I certainly did not (and would not) try to leverage receiving a bonus against looking at other employment opportunities.
I appreciate the Board's gesture in offering the bonus, however our City faces many challenges as well as opportunities and I do not want this to become a distraction which takes our focus away from the hard work that needs to be done.
Once our City Attorney returns I will consult with him on the proper process to dispose of the executed amendment to my employment agreement.
Please do not hesitate to call if you have any questions or concerns.
The city's Board of Alderman informed the public Tuesday night of a big bonus for City Manager, Mike Epperson. The bonus adds a total of $30,000 to Epperson's more than $150,000 salary over a three year period beginning in 2014.
Mayor Lee Bettis said Epperson is worth the extra pay.
"We're trying to keep him," Bettis said. "He is absolutely the best city manager you're ever going to find anywhere."
The number does not sit well with some city residents.
"I just think that's totally wrong for a city the size of New Bern," Stevie Bennett said.
NewsChannel 12 asked Mayor Bettis if the price is out of range for New Bern, but was told it's average for comparable cities. According to public records, the city of Greenville pays its city manager $160,000 per year; the city of Kinston pays its city manager $110,000 a year; finally, the city of Morehead City pays its city manager $95,000 a year.
NewsChannel 12 also asked the mayor why the decision was not brought up for public comment at a weekly Board meeting. The vote was made at an annual retreat on Saturday, February 16th.
"Everybody was welcome to attend," Bettis said. "We've been discussing it for two months now and voted on it at a public meeting."
Stevie Bennett said there are better places the city's money could go, including to city employee salaries. The mayor said those employees have recently been brought up to the same level pay as other cities around the area. Bettis said paying Epperson a little extra is a small price to pay for his work.
"We're trying to prevent other cities from taking him," he said. "We don't want to lose him ever."
Bettis said Epperson has bettered the city's financial state, improved the sewer maintenance program and reorganized department heads.