Orange Cove tweaks city manager contract

Amendment to city manager contract for severance pay sparks disagreement between Orange Cove City Council

Orange Cove City Attorney Megan Crouch and City Manager Daniel Parra listen to council members discuss Parra's employment agreement at the Orange Cove City Council meeting April 24, 2024. The amended agreement, which included a one-year severance and a salary increase, passed with a 3-2 vote. (Serena Bettis)
Orange Cove City Attorney Megan Crouch and City Manager Daniel Parra listen to council members discuss Parra's employment agreement at the Orange Cove City Council meeting April 24, 2024. The amended agreement, which included a one-year severance and a salary increase, passed with a 3-2 vote. (Serena Bettis)
Serena Bettis
Published April 26, 2024  • 
12:00 pm

ORANGE COVE – The city of Orange Cove updated its employment agreement with City Manager Daniel Parra despite some disagreement between council members over the details of the contract. 

Parra has worked for the city for over a year, starting in February 2023 as interim city manager before becoming the permanent city manager in October. Amendments to his employment agreement included a salary increase, increase in severance pay and an increase in what the city will contribute to Parra’s California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) account. 

The Orange Cove City Council voted to approve the amendments at its April 24 meeting through a 3-2 vote; Mayor Diana Guerra Silva and Mayor pro tem Gilbert Garcia voted against the item and said the change to the severance pay agreement did not sit right with them. 

“I just took a hard look at this, and I asked God to help me to do the right thing, and I am not in agreement with the one year … severance,” Guerra Silva said. “We’ve always had six months, and I think the city, I mean, we need to really watch our finances, and that to me, that’s … the major drive to my decision that I am not in agreement with that.” 

Severance pay is compensation that an employer provides to an employee, typically if an employee is let go from a job without cause. When the city council first approved Parra’s contract on March 22, 2023, it did not include any severance pay, but it was amended on April 12, 2023, to include severance pay equal to six months of his salary if his employment was ended without cause. 

Guerra Silva and Garcia said that they felt severance pay equal to one year of Parra’s salary — which was increased to $180,000 annually — was too much, and they wanted to remain in line with what they have provided to other city managers in the past. 

Councilmember Josie Cervantes said she disagreed because one year severance pay is what neighboring cities provide for their employees and she didn’t “foresee a problem.” She also said she did not understand why that concern was not brought up during the closed session discussion about the contract on April 10; Guerra Silva said that was because she wanted to discuss it during the open session. 

The other amendments to Parra’s contract included a salary increase of $15,000 and the city’s agreement to make full contributions to Parra’s PERS account. Parra thanked the council for amending the agreement, and also reminded them that the severance pay is only applicable if his employment is terminated without cause; if he is let go for-cause, he will not receive any severance. 

“The severance is not a retirement plan or anything like that,” Parra said. “If I’m at fault, you let me go, I don’t get any; it’s only if you let me go for no reason. … I won’t get into the situations, but it’s just a protection. I do have a family and I do have bills that I’ve got to pay, too.” 

Parra’s employment agreement began on Feb. 15, 2023, when he was hired on as interim city manager. At that time, his annual salary was $130,000. After six months, the city council conducted a performance review of Parra and agreed to convert his interim employment to a permanent position. The council approved an updated contract at its Oct. 11, 2023, meeting that entered into a five-year agreement with Parra and increased his annual salary to $165,00. 

Parra is a long-time resident of the nearby city of Fowler and is its current mayor; according to the Fowler municipal code, he receives $200 per month as mayor. 

The average city manager salary in southeast Fresno County is over $200,000. According to employee salary schedules available on city websites, the highest annual salaries that neighboring city managers can earn include: $216,658 in Reedley, $195,084 in Dinuba, $198,324 in Fowler, $218,178 in Kingsburg, $231,525 in Selma and $212,760 in Sanger.

Serena Bettis
General Assignment Reporter