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UPDATED Council approves settlement with former city manager

Submitted by on 1, March 18, 2009 – 8:30 am11 Comments

Updated 1:30 p.m.

The city council has okayed a separation agreement with former City Manager Debra Kurita, who resigned from the city on February 26 following a series of lengthy, closed-door performance evaluations and weeks of rumors about her departure.

Per the agreement, Kurita will remain on the city payroll for six months, receiving her salary and benefits. She’ll also have up to 24 months to sell her East End home, which was paid for in part with a $250,000 loan from the city. The agreement lists her resignation date as March 13.

Kurita was hired on August 1, 2005, and the term of her contract was through July 31, 2011. The  contract says Kurita is entitled to six months pay and benefits if she is terminated by the council without cause. It also says that if the council requests Kurita’s resignation, “then Kurita may, at her option, deem herself terminated without cause.”

A resignation e-mail Kurita sent to city staff said that she was resigning because she and the city council agreed on the city’s goals but not how to achieve them.

“The decision to take the city’s management in a new direction was an amicable decision. And we wish her well in her future endeavors,” Mayor Beverly Johnson said after reporting that the council, which discussed the agreement in closed session, had voted unanimously to approve it.

The resignation agreement says that both the city and Kurita, “while maintaining their respective legal positions, wish to resolve this disputed matter without the necessity of additional proceedings, legal fees and costs.” In it, both the city and Kurita pledge not to sue each other.

She will be paid $8,990.92 every two weeks through September 12 and will also receive medical and dental benefits. (She’s also due about $35,000 before taxes for the 374 hours of vacation she’s racked up.)

The separation agreement also gives Kurita until March 2011 to sell the home she purchased in part with a loan from the city. The home carries a $782,000 mortgage plus a $250,000 loan from the city. The agreement says it has a fair market value of between $840,000 and $890,000.

In responding to an e-mail request for comment, Kurita said she was honored to serve as Alameda’s city manager and that she’s proud of the accomplishments she shared with the council and city staff over her three and a half years in the job. Her list included addressing issues with the city’s former telecom system, developing and implementing a range of budget-balancing strategies and completing an array of capital projects, including the Alameda Theatre and parking complex and the new Alameda Free Library.

Kurita, who said she is exploring a variety of career options, thanked the community for allowing her to serve and wished the council and staff well in dealing with the challenges ahead.

“The downturn in the economy has impacted the ability of the City of Alameda, and every city in the State and nation, to generate the resources to support the various services that the City provides. The City will continue to face a number of fiscal and operational challenges,” she said.

The council also met in closed session to discuss an interim city manager, but didn’t take any action. From where I was sitting, it looked like the council members, City Attorney Teresa Highsmith, Acting City Manager David Brandt – and Interim Finance Director Ann Marie Gallant – were in the room.


  • Jack B. says:

    Help me, help me…. I have outrage fatigue.

  • Ron Salsig says:

    Wonderful job, Michele. Your blog has replaced the daily newspaper here in Alameda. Keep up the good work.


  • average citizen says:

    Yet last night the city council raises appeal fees from $100 to $850 for the average citizen. It’s a "class thing." It makes me sick.

  • AD says:

    Excellent job, Michele.

    Paying executives to leave is questionable in the best of circumstances. When you are crying poor, have fire station brownouts and are putting appeal fees on citizens out of reach, the act is outright disgusting.

    The AIG virus is spreading. Is shame something anybody feels these days?

  • John says:

    I took a look at the former City Manager's street and according to Zillow the homes are estimated between $746,000 and $933,000. My guess is her home is closer to $800,000.

    Give the mortgage and city loan total $1,032,000, She will need the two years to sell the home. That is a big number to be underwater. On the positive, she gets to pay the new transfer tax when they find a buyer.

  • eyes open and watchi says:

    All City Administrators and City Council should be utterly disgusted with themselves. It's time to brown out City Hall.

  • Sharon says:

    Thank you for the in-depth reporting.

    Just curious. Is the city council &/or staff still covering up the exact reason for Kurita's so-called resignation? I don't see what there is to hide, and the information would be useful in understanding the direction our city leaders want to take.

    • Hi Sharon,

      So far, Frank Matarrese has been the only one to comment directly about what he saw as the issues between the council and the city manager. His answer was that he felt the council was giving the city manager direction and that nothing was happening. As far as the direction piece goes, I know Frank has talked a lot at the council meetings about "flattening" the structure of city government in a way that eliminates management and keeps the folks who are providing us services. Whether that specifically means, say, eliminating the management of the police and fire departments and combining the two we'll see, though we do have three council members saying publicly they're against it (and, as I've said before, two more who said it's up to the city manager to make the moves).

  • observer says:

    It is typical that city managers and sometimes other at will employees such as department heads have employment contracts. These contracts usually state the terms of separation without cause. Typically the upfront negotiation of the contract is at the direction of the city council or its subcommittee who hire the new city manager. The cost of separation should certainly been a part of the Council's risk assessment during their discussions with the former City Manager. The Council must bear responsibility for the resulting costs of their action. We citizens have the right to expect that they will reveal to us the need to have this happen now rather than earlier or later.

    Curious that the Council is not moving more quickly to at least establish a process for replacement.

  • AD says:

    I am angry at the city council for offering such a lavish contract in the first place. It upset me three years ago, it upsets me even more now. I’m also angry at the city council for not having the guts to say they fired the manager because she would not follow council direction. I’m angry at having to read that she “resigned” and then reading that she has a right to all that compensation because she really didn’t resign. Why can’t this council deal with issues like this in an adult, mature manner? The manager is an employee, if the employee doesn’t follow policy, they can go, but they are not entitled to compensation after that. Working at the will of the city council is part of the contract isn’t it. If you don’t abide by reasonable policy direction, you’ve broken the contract. It’s how things (should) work, there’s nothing personal about it.

    I’m also angry at Kurita for “getting her own”—or not refusing it—when she knows full well that this is a city in crisis, like many others. We all have made—are making—sacrifices daily. If she really feels that council was wrong on the issue they disagreed about and she was doing her job right, let her state her position and her reasoning instead of backing out with her exuberant pay and offering some platitudes about challenges ahead. We all need to know who is right about this, instead of guessing and wondering, is this ship is sinking or not.

    Keep asking questions Michele, thank you.

  • Irene says:

    What I find totally amazing is the employment contract. It appears Kurita’s contract required only showing up for work, not using drugs and not being convicted of a crime in order to receive a tidy severance package.

    It is, indeed, a “class” thing.

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