Thousand Oaks city manager Andrew Powers, the second-highest-paid City employee, has worked primarily from home for more than a year and a half.
According to documents obtained by the Conejo Guardian, Powers, who enjoys an annual salary-and-benefits package of more than $360,000, began working remotely on March 25, 2020, and continued to work almost entirely remotely for the next 13 months. He then began working half-weeks in the office from May 2021 to September 2021, when the Guardian’s data analysis ends.
City employees tell the Guardian that Powers’ work-from-home habits have lowered morale at City Hall, especially given that employees under Powers returned to more-normal work schedules months ago. They question the wisdom of the City’s chief executive remaining physically absent from the employees he leads.
Powers, who resides in Ventura, even appeared remotely for a City Council meeting on the date his latest contract was approved, September 14, 2021. At that meeting, the Council approved a salary increase to $280,453, effective July 10, 2021, plus an additional $80,000 in retirement and health benefits.
In response to the Guardian’s inquiry, Powers responded by email that “… the timesheets provided are not intended to represent hours worked on-sight [sic] or remote. That said, it is not at all an accurate reflection of work location. The hours and volume of work have been longer and heavier than ever before, at City Hall, in the field, and in virtual settings.”
He also wrote: “As with most organizations, the past nearly two years have been marked by a shift to a hybrid model in most disciplines. I am extremely proud of how our employees have collectively adapted to the disruptions and that we are wrapping up one of the most productive years in our organization’s history.”
The Guardian asked Tim Giles, human resources department director for the City of Thousand Oaks, if it is customary for time cards not to accurately reflect the location of work, as Powers indicated. He responded: “The location where management services are performed is not relevant to the payroll/benefits/finance and accounting functions. Location has not and is not tracked in our time recording system. Executive and management employees have always responded at any time and from any location as needed by the work demands. Executives have always been available and engaged at home on weekends and evenings, as well as responding to field locations for meetings, inspections, project job walks, etc. Rarely has the entirety of effort spent by any executive during a day been confined to City Hall, both prior to and during the pandemic.”
The Guardian asked Giles if other City employee time cards follow this same practice of not necessarily reflecting the location of work. Giles replied, “The time recording system records time for non-exempt employees and allows for the administration of the payroll/benefits/finance and accounting functions, it does not and is not intended to reflect the location where work is performed. This is consistent across the organization.”
The complete time card report from March 16, 2020, through September 28, 2021, can be viewed below, along with Powers’ employment contracts from 2017-2021.