City awards bonuses for bigwigs

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - "I don't think it's fair with the way the economy is going that anybody gets a bonus," said one Charlotte resident.

Stop just about anybody on the street here, and this is what you'll hear.

"I really don't think that anybody should be receiving bonuses," said another taxpayer.

But public officials are handing them out anyway - to those at the top. Down on the street, workers aren't so lucky.

Earlier this year, City Manager Curt Walton stopped all raises and merit-based bonuses for city employees due to the recession.

A week ago, however, he accepted a $16,000 bonus.

Last night City Council also voted to give City Attorney Mac McCarley $15,000 bucks in bonuses.

And Mecklenburg County Manager Harry Jones is getting over $38,000 extra.

But County Chair Jennifer Roberts says he deserves it. "He went beyond the call of what a county manager would have to do, and was creative, innovative, and in the end, efficient and cost effective," she said.

And business consultant Mary Bruce says bonuses are often necessary to retain top talent.

"There are times that there are a lot of factors there that you really do have to put a pretty big carrot out there to attract the people you want," Bruce says.

Of course, there are also times, she says, when good leaders refuse them.

"I certainly have a number of clients who have stepped back from their own bonus, and who have also cut their pay," Bruce added. "And some of the privately held companies I work with, I mean, business owners in tough times will cut their pay more than they ask employees to."