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Submitted by on 1, April 2, 2009 – 6:50 amOne Comment
Credit: The Valley Breeze

Credit: The Valley Breeze

The city council moved its interim finance director upstairs to the city manager’s chair Wednesday night on a dramatic 3-2 vote. And members of the council said layoffs and consolidation of city departments are on her to-do list for righting the city’s finances.

Ann Marie C. Gallant, 59, who has served as Alameda’s interim finance director for eight months, became interim city manager Wednesday. She will earn $250,000 a year over at least a two-year period, plus $36,525 in benefits.

Council members Marie Gilmore and Lena Tam voted against moving Gallant into the city manager’s office, despite voicing confidence in her abilities.

“In a time of increasing budget crisis, we find ourselves increasing our budget allocation for the city manager by $75,000 this fiscal year and $90,000 the next. This is at a time when we’re asking other employees to tighten their belts. That could potentially also include layoffs. So I have a problem with that,” Gilmore said.

The increased budget amounts reflect the fact that the city will continue to pay former manager Debra Kurita, who resigned on February 26, for six months as part of her severance agreement. (Vice Mayor Doug deHaan, by the way – who, with Mayor Beverly Johnson, made up the council subcommittee charged with working out Gallant’s new contract – said he researched city manager pay and found that the amount was in line with what managers of other similar size cities make.)

Gilmore also questioned what she said was a lack of a process around selecting someone for the job and a lack of clear expectations for performance and goals. And she said that that Gallant has done such a good job as finance director, she’d like her to stay there – especially since the city’s budget for next year is soon due.

Tam echoed Gilmore’s comments, adding that she’s not convinced the ideas Gallant offered Johnson and deHaan for steering the city’s finances straight – ideas that include layoffs and consolidating departments – are the right ones.

“I’m not sure that vision is going to be sustainable to the city in the long term with respect to service levels,” Tam said.

After the vote, Gallant responded with a quote from “The Godfather” and a promise to sit down with each council member about what their expectations are. And she said she’ll stay focused on the city’s finances.

“There’s this great line in `The Godfather’ – `It’s not personal, its business.’ I appreciate all your comments this evening and am glad you voted how you felt,” Gallant said.

Gallant has served in a variety of administrative posts over more than three decades of government service, and has spent the last few years of her career serving short stints as city manager of three California cities, at least two of which were in desperate financial straits before she arrived.

As Alameda’s interim finance manager she has offered clear and compelling explanations of the city’s most arcane financial matters and put together an ambitious plan to finance the city’s unfunded future retirement benefits for the city’s public safety employees, which stand at $75.4 million.

It is not yet clear who will fill the finance position.

Gallant’s last job before coming to Alameda was as the city manager of Desert Hot Springs in Southern California, where she is credited with turning the city’s finances around. in part by laying off some 20 city employees. (When she resigned from that job in August 2007, 14 people showed up before the city council to demand her return. One political observer I spoke with there said she was highly regarded and that the city is continuing to implement programs she put together there.) She is also credited with hiring the city’s current police chief.

She also served for nine months as the city manager of tiny Gustine (Merced County) in 2004 and then, for just under a year, as the manager of (slightly larger) King City (Monterey County), where she was credited in one report as having turned the city’s finances around. She also attempted, unsuccessfully, to pass a ballot measure to increase the city’s utility users tax.

Gallant also served as deputy administrator of the Community Redvelopment Agency in Los Angeles, where she is credited with pushing the Kodak Theater project through (and bringing the Oscars back to Hollywood). She also worked as development services manager in Carson, where she blew the whistle on alleged wrongdoing regarding the bids for that city’s garbage contract.

Gallant has a masters in public administration from California State University at Fullerton with a concentration in finance. (She’s also got a masters in education form UC Irvine and was working as a 7-12 teacher before taking on a career in government.)

One Comment »

  • Dan says:

    Thank you Michele for yet another comprehensive article. Councilmembers Gilmore and Tam nailed it. There is something terribly wrong with paying such a high salary when average workers are asked to sacrifice at every turn.

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