Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach explained on Wednesday why two high-ranking city employees deserved a bonus of $25,000.
Bach said Chris Melcher, the city attorney, and Laura Neumann, the chief of staff, received the one-time bonuses last year. Both employees already earn six-figure salaries -- $187,529 for Melcher and $165,000 for Neumann.
Bach cited Melcher's role in the sale of then city-owned Memorial Hospital, and Neumann's plan to help city departments work more efficiently with tight finances, as accomplishments deserving of the bonuses.
"We're talking about arguably the two most important executives in city government -- more important than I am, frankly," said Bach. "To say that the bonus is a problem, I hope folks don't feel that way. We're living within our budget."
Bach said another factor in his decision to award the bonuses, is a recent compensation study independently conducted for the city. He said the study found that many city positions, including chief of staff and city attorney, pay less than the average among cities of similar size.
"I've had some criticism for some (high-ranking employees) who have left," said Bach. "But I think (most) people trust me to do the right thing. That's the point of the strong-mayor form of government."
Bach said the city, armed with results of the compensation study, will focus on providing long-overdue pay raises for firefighters, police officers and some civilian employees.