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Long Beach OKs new $203G contract for city manager

"Long Beach is a beautiful community that is

"Long Beach is a beautiful community that is one of Long Island's jewels. We will do all we can to polish this stone," Long Beach City Manager Donna Gayden said after the City Council approved her new contract. Credit: John Roca

The Long Beach City Council approved a contract extension Tuesday night that will keep City Manager Donna Gayden — who had initially taken the job on an interim basis before the pandemic — in the role until the end of 2023.

The council voted 4-0 at a board meeting to approve the new contract, which takes effect Dec. 1. Gayden’s annual salary of $203,000 is a $13,000 raise — or 6.8% increase —over her current agreement. The city will also pay $17,000 in wages that will be dedicated to an IRS 457 deferred compensation pension plan for Gayden, according to the contract. Councilwoman Karen McInnis was absent from the meeting.

"Under Ms. Gayden’s leadership, the way things are done is changing and transforming for a restored future for our city. There are no more handshakes in backrooms," Councilwoman Elizabeth Treston said before voting on the contract.

Gayden was initially hired in February 2020 in an "interim" capacity with a six-month, $178,000 contract. City officials said they hired her as a short-term fixer to turn around the city’s finances and balance its budgets. She signed a one-year contract for $190,000 last August with an optional extension until Nov. 30, 2021.

In March, the city began a search for a deputy city manager to take over once Gayden was ready to depart. City Comptroller Inna Reznik was named deputy manager.

"We’ve taken some good steps, but there is still a great deal ahead," Gayden said in a statement Tuesday. "I appreciate the Council’s trust in our team’s ability to correct years of dysfunction, and moreover, I am proud to call myself a resident of this community. Long Beach is a beautiful community that is one of Long Island’s jewels. We will do all we can to polish this stone."

She is the fourth city manager since the last permanent city manager, Jack Schnirman, was elected Nassau County comptroller in 2017.

Long Beach’s credit rating is one step above junk bond status — the lowest grade in 10 years — after Moody’s Investors Service downgraded it in July. Increased borrowing and a looming judgment of more than $140 million against the city by developers factored into the rating.

John McNally, spokesman for the city, said Gayden’s new contract should also address Moody's concern about lack of leadership stability within the city’s administration.

The contract approval came a day after incumbent John Bendo and challengers Roy Lester and Tina Posterli were officially elected to the city council with the completion of the absentee ballot count.

Lester expressed concerns about the validity of the contract as well as the raise.

"I’m not here to judge the job she’s doing," Lester said at the meeting. "I’m just asking what the metrics are that are being used to justify this raise."

Lester added that the new council members should have been consulted before approving the contract. Bendo noted that the new administration will include himself, Treston and McInnis, who all support Gayden's new contract.

With John Asbury

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misidentified Donna Gayden as acting city manager of Long Beach.

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