VALLEJO –The Vallejo City Council voted Tuesday to extend the contract and provide a salary increase for City Attorney Veronica Nebb despite receiving opposition from some members of the community.
Nebb’s contract was extended through to December 31, 2027 with a 20% salary increase of $31,000 retroactive to July 1, bumping her contract from $219,000 to $250,000. The contract allows for 3% salary increases for three straight years, ultimately raising Nebb’s annual base salary to $273,000 by July 2025. Combined with benefits, Nebb’s total compensation is expected to top $440,000 by July 2025.
District 6 councilmember Cristina Arriola was the lone 'no' vote to extend Nebb's contract.
Mayor Robert McConnell and councilmember Hakeem Brown, at-large, praised Nebb’s work ethic since her arrival as the city’s top lawyer in November 2020.
McConnell, who signs Nebb’s timecards, said the city attorney is often active over the weekends.
“She’s working seven days a week,” he said, adding that if Nebb was working in the private sector she would be earning “substantively more.” McConnell said that he doesn’t always agree with Nebb but touted her legal advice as “well founded, and well thought out.”
Brown said it was important to pay attorneys what they are worth.
“It absolutely matters for lawyers, trust me, I know, as many of you know,” Brown said. “A lawyer matters. You go cheap on a lawyer, good luck. I don’t believe in going cheap on lawyers, you need the best of the best. I’ve seen City Attorney Nebb serve with honor. I’m proud she is here. Guess what? She is no slouch.”
Most of the half-dozen public speakers asked the council to either delay the vote or reject the salary increase. Many pointed to what they said were failures by Nebb, including her refusal to release a third-party report investigating the badge bending scandal that rocked the Vallejo Police Department and for giving poor legal advice to the council.
Nebb was also accused of interfering with the anticipated civilian oversight of the Vallejo Police Department. During council discussion, Brown made disparaging remarks about Common Ground, a non-partisan group of religious and non-profit organizations in Solano and Napa counties, which is advocating for a three-prong approach: a civilian police commission, inspector general, and community police review agency.
“Common Ground is predominantly a white Catholic organization, and they don’t have any say so for me as a Black councilmember,” Brown said. “I answer to people in the Crest, North Vallejo, South Vallejo, the hills, Millersville, I don’t answer to a group of white Catholic advocates, in general.”
Brown also criticized “wannabe politicians running for office, who are using impacted families to support their career.”
“I think that is wrong,” Brown said. “They have also used city of Vallejo employees to support their issues.” Brown didn’t list any names but former Vallejo school board trustee and District 4 Vallejo City Council candidate Ruscal Cayangyang spoke during the public comment, calling for the council to institute a moratorium on giving perks and raises to “highly paid employees.”
Later in the meeting, community member Andrea Sorce called for the council to censure Brown.
Meanwhile, Ashley Monterrosa, whose brother Sean Monterrosa was shot and killed by Vallejo police Det. Jarrett Tonn during the early morning hours of June 2, 2020, called out Nebb’s performance.
“She has continued to fail the city and its effort toward police reform and police accountability,” Ashley Monterrosa said . “Justice delayed is justice denied.”
Sean Monterrosa’s family has been part of a group of community members and families impacted by Vallejo police violence leading the charge to reform the police force.
The debate also touched on a salary survey city staff conducted that concluded Nebb was earning 23% lower than the market median. City hall didn’t release the report, as many of the public speakers expressed concern with the lack of information.
“The citizens should not have to work this hard to get basic information,” said longtime council critic Anne Carr.
Several on the council defended the salary increase, stating that other city departments are also being impacted by lower salaries.
“We are still not at the median. We’re still behind the market,” said at-large council member Pippin Dew. “We do have stretched resources, scarce means, and so we do what we can with what we have but what we have is not enough.”
Fellow at-large council member Katy Miessner said she wished the city “had the magic wand to pay everybody what they deserve and be competitive.”
“We are the poorest city, in the poorest county, in the richest region on Earth,” Miessner added. “We have really difficult urban problems to deal with and they present themselves in different ways, and we need really good city staff to help us through that.”
Public speaker Phillip Thomas said it didn’t make sense to him to give one employee such a large increase when other positions are still below median.
“What about the working people for this city? The people who put in the hard work day to day to make this city run,” he asked. “I realize that she may be one of them, but there are a whole lot of others.”
Brown said he wanted to see the front-line employees receive more pay.
“Every department here in the city of Vallejo is underpaid,” Brown said. “I’ve been advocating for it since day one.” Brown said the loss of city employees is a “constant talent drain.”
Brown also called out the cities of Richmond, Fairfield, Vacaville, and Napa, which “are comparable cities that pilfer our employees regularly.”
“We want to hire the best and retain the best and the brightest,” said Vice Mayor Rozzana Verder-Aliga, District 1, who added that employees stay two or three years and then leave to places that pay more, which is a waste for the city.
“We have to be competitive if we want the best for our city and the best for our residents,” she added.
Sorce said the city will be “on the hook for her pension for the rest of her life.”
“City staff are giving themselves raises and bonuses,” Sorce said. “You are rubber stamping them, with no regard for the job performance or fiscal impact on the city.”
Mina Loera-Diaz, District 3 responded to Sorce’s comments about Nebb’s pension.
“That’s how it works,” Loera-Diaz said. “When you put [in] an X-amount of time your employer usually pays your pension for the rest of your life.”
Nebb was originally given a three-year contract that was set to end in November 2023 after being lured away from the law firm Walter & Pistole, serving as senior assistant city attorney for the cities of Novato and Martinez, according to her bio on the firm’s site at the time.
She replaced Claudia Quintana, who retired in April 2020 after spending eight years as city attorney. Chief Assistant City Attorney Randy Risner was elevated to interim city attorney in late January 2020 as the city began its search for a new city attorney.
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THE VALLEJO SUN NEWSLETTER
Investigative reporting, regular updates, events and more
- Vallejo City Council
- Veronica Nebb
- Hakeem Brown
- Katy Miessner
- Pippin Dew
- Robert McConnell
- Badge bending
- Vallejo Police Department
- Common Ground
- Ruscal Cayangyang
- Andrea Sorce
- Ashley Monterrosa
- Sean Monterrosa
- Anne Carr
- Phillip Thomas
- Rozzana Verder-Aliga
- Claudia Quintana
John Glidden worked as a journalist covering the city of Vallejo for more than 10 years. He left journalism in 2023 and currently works in the office of Solano County Supervisor Monica Brown.
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