City of Seward

Council Approves Manager Pay Raise, Severance Pay Extension

Heidi Zemach for SCN
The Seward City Council approved a $9,000 pay increase for City Manager Jim Hunt Monday night, plus an additional five months of severance pay should his contract be terminated. That brings his pay to $105,000 per year, and the severance pay to nine month’s worth, in addition to any leftover annual leave. The discussion of his contract and his first annual evaluation took place in a recent executive (closed-door) session.
“I personally object,” said Mayor David Seaward as he proposed to amend the proposed revised contract that would decrease the increased nine months of severance pay down to six months. He did not say why he objected. Ristine Casagranda seconded the amendment for purposes of discussion.
“This was discussed in executive session and agreed to by the majority of the council. I don’t think there’s any room for discussion here,” said Hunt. “We are bound by this agreement,” he added later. “There was no objection at the time this was discussed,” said Marianna Keil. “You are not allowed to speak about what was done in executive session,” he was told. “I did object,” Seaward said.
“You cannot take action in executive session,” City Clerk Johanna Kinney reminded Hunt. Therefore, no matter what was discussed in private, there could not legally be any binding agreement made according to Alaska Open Meetings Act “Sunshine” laws. The council agenda statement’s Background & Justification, provided in the packet said Hunt had been employed as City Manager since Nov 1, 2011. It also said the city manager does not participate in standard employee step increases or cost of living allowances, so any pay increase or annual leave accrual must be by amendment to the employment agreement. (SCN was required to file a Freedom of Information Application form in order to recieve information about his current contract, such as his pay, and after we recieved the information we updated this story: HZ)


The council then voted on the mayor’s proposed amendment. It failed 2- 4, with Seaward and Casagranda voting in favor of it, and Christy Terry, Vanta Shafer, Bob Valdatta and Marianna Keil voting against it. Vice Mayor Jean Bardarson was absent. Then the main motion was on the floor. This time the proposed manager’s contract was passed 5-1, with only Seaward voting against it.
At the meeting’s conclusion, following the council member’s comments, Hunt again addressed the issue. “I felt a little ambushed by the mayor tonight” to have had this discussion the night before going to Juneau to ask for $20 million dollars, he said. “What kind of united front does this present?” he asked. He also expressed disappointment over Seaward’s proposed revision to the contract revision that he felt everyone had agreed upon in executive session, and soon after what he felt had been a mend in the two men’s working relationship.
In other matters, council appointed 10 volunteer members to the Seward Recreation Committee, a special ad hoc citizen advisory committee created to look into new recreation-related proposals or projects for Seward. Those appointed included all applicants, including Mica Van Buskirk, Joe Allen, Peggy Hamner, Amy Komarek, Jena Petersen, Jody Tuck, Mike Little, David Paperman, Mike Insalaco and Aspen Rose Aponi. The council also agreed to have Casagranda act as the city liaison to the committee, with Shafer as her stand-in.
The council also unanimously agreed to offer a travel expense stipend of $1,000 each for up to two students who may wish to participate in the Obihiro Student Exchange program in the summer of 2013, the 40th anniversary of that mutual sister-city exchange program.
The council also appointed Bardarson to travel to Juneau for an important legislative reception on Feb 27th to lobby for SMIC development, with Shafer as her back up.
The mayor read out a proclamation supporting the “One Billion Rising” effort to end violence against women, and a Valentine’s Day march at noon, Feb 14 sponsored by SeaView Community Services. The plan is to gather at City Hall and march together to the Alaska SeaLife Center. The community was invited to participate.



  1. WHEN will the terrible sound system get fixed? It cut out intermittently then completely for about a half hour from the start, so that it was impossible to understand the citizen comments, or anything else until after 7:30.

    Would it be possible to reserve a few seats directly in front of the camera when it is pointing generally at the Council so that there is a better view than someone’s head? Or raise the camera above the audience?

    Would it be possible to have a way to communicate with someone in the room to alert them to the audio or video issues instead of bothering police dispatch?

    It’s very frustrating to want to watch Council from home and not be able to, time after time, due to these and similar problems.

    Thank you,
    Carol Griswold

  2. Has executive session lost its meaning and intent to some on council?

  3. I don’t see the problem of discussing Resolution 2013-013, which involved the City Manager’s raise to $105,000 and extended his severance package to 9 months or $78,750.

    The decision could not be made in the Executive Session, as pointed out by the City Clerk, so it was open to further amendment and discussion by Council in public.

    Carol Griswold

    • I want to thank the voters of Seward. Thus far, the journey has been difficult trying to represent you as private residents, businesses and others with common goals for our city. I will continue to represent you. The mayor does not have a Veto power which makes it difficult to establish policies shared by the majority. That does mean there is no hope. The voters hold the key to direction of a great community.

      There are those that see fault in everything I say and do while ignoring others. Their goal is for me to resign or roll-over and play dead for the remainder of the term.

      Miss Altermatt is on PACAB Commission and Seward Chamber Board. She recently spoke in council as a private citizen and told the mayor to basically take the mayor’s title, act the part and go sit in the back of the bus. She ignored the issues.

      The Chamber invited the new city manager and assistant manager to speak at the Chamber, yet never once invited the mayor. The Chamber has a contract with tax payers to promote Seward and received 50% of 2011 bed tax revenue which equals to $170,000.00. Please see who sits on the board. After emceeing for past 6 years, the Chamber also decided not to have Jeanie Greene (Alaska Native) from Heartbeat Alaska emcee 30 minutes at 4th of July Mt. Marathon race.

      If anybody is ambushed, it’s the mayor and anyone who shares the same vision and opportunities for our community.

      While I am at the back of the bus, I will use the mayorship and continue to promote Seward, openess and transparency in govt, and advocate for community needs.

      The last council meeting really exposed few dynamics people should be aware of …

      • Mr Seaward – Of course you don’t have veto power. You are the figurehead of the council, and facilitator of the meeting, with one vote. If you had the power to strike down any measure you disagreed with, you’d be a King. We got rid of that guy in 1776. If you’re “sitting in the back of the bus”, that’s because you put yourself there. Wipe off your tears and grow up.

  4. Mayor-
    Your words above attacking a voter, citizen of Seward, long time Seward volunteer working for the benefit of all citizens, and local business owner speak louder than your rhetoric professing to be the representation of the people. All citizens have the right to come and speak to Council, even if they disagree with you, without being personally attacked. It is hard enough to speak at Council without adding the fear that the Mayor, or another Council Member, will target you in a local blog if you disagree. To the people of Seward: please continue to come and provide comments during the meeting, or send us correspondence through the City Clerk. This request is sincere, whether you agree with something I’ve done or not

    Your broadening the net even wider to include the Seward Chamber of Commerce with wild accusations of racism is reprehensible. (Disclaimer: I am the Secretary/Treasurer on the Chamber Board.) The Chamber Membership is made up of local businesses, large and small, supporting opportunities in Seward to benefit everyone. The Board is voted in by its members. The Chamber Director makes a Presentation to Council at one Council Meeting each month, and if you have any direct questions, you should take the opportunity to ask during the meeting. Better yet- call or visit the Director in her office. I am sure she and her staff would welcome a visit and chance to share with you how exciting it is to be a business in Seward with all the current and upcoming opportunities. If you would like to speak at a Chamber Lunch, please just let them know. The Chamber is always looking for speakers and more often than not, those speakers contact the Chamber when they have something to present to the members.

    I don’t think Seward would be served by a Mayor ‘rolling over’ but I do think that if you have beneficial legislation to bring forward to Council you should certain do so. You don’t need ‘veto power’ to do that. If you need some help writing a resolution or ordinance, I would be happy to work on something with you.

    Christy Terry