City manager council’s top topic
Alameda’s City Council talked about what they want to see in a new city manager Tuesday night as more than a dozen of Interim City Manager Ann Marie Gallant’s supporters turned out to ask that she be returned to the post.
The council decided on December 28 not to renew Gallant’s contract and to place her on paid administrative leave through March 31, when it lapses. Interviews for the manager’s job could begin in February.
The ideal candidate for the job, council members said, would be someone who is familiar with California’s complicated finances. Focus issues would include redevelopment of Alameda Point and the Island’s northern waterfront.
Mayor Marie Gilmore said she wants someone who is able to engage the public and work cooperatively with the council and other agencies who has a demonstrated track record of transparency. City Councilwoman Beverly Johnson said she wants someone who can prioritize service levels for the public during tough financial times.
Council members said they’d consider someone who comes out of the business world, though that person would need to understand municipal finance. And they said they’d be willing to jettison the requirement that the city’s top manager live in town.
Pay would be negotiable, though Vice Mayor Rob Bonta said he wants data on salaries other city managers are earning. Councilwoman Lena Tam said the state collected that data after news broke that the manager in the City of Bell’s earnings topped $800,000 a year.
City Councilman Doug deHaan questioned whether the schedule for finding a new manager was too aggressive. Human Resources chief Karen Willis said a search like this one typically takes around five months, and applications are usually solicited for six weeks before interviews are conducted.
But Gallant’s supporters turned out to tell the council they already had the perfect candidate for the job. And they accused the council members who voted to put Gallant on leave – Gilmore, Tam and Bonta – of doing the bidding of ousted Point developer SunCal and other interests in sending her packing.
“This seems to be no more than political payback against the one person who has all the qualities you listed as what you want in a city manager,” former council candidate Adam Gillitt said.
Gilmore declined in an earlier interview to say why Gallant was placed on leave.
Gallant’s supporters said they were upset she was placed on leave and that they didn’t have the opportunity to weigh in on the decision. Some specifically took Bonta to task for voting to place Gallant on leave without ever having worked with her.
Others accused the council of violating the city’s charter and the Brown Act. Former council candidate Jean Sweeney said the Brown Act section the council used to notice the closed-door meeting where they put Gallant on leave requires notice to be given to employees that any complaints or charges against them can be heard in open session if they wish. Gallant was on a scheduled vacation and not present at the meeting when the council opted not to continue her contract, though the contract does require the council to give her 90 days’ notice if they don’t intend to renew it.
Section 2-2 of the charter prohibits the council from removing, suspending, requesting the resignation of or reducing the salary of the city manager, city clerk or city attorney in the 90 days following the seating of new council members.
Johnson said the city should explain how – or whether – the decision was made in compliance with the Brown Act and the city’s charter.
DeHaan said he thought Gallant should have been allowed to stay on through the course of her contract. He said he was surprised at the discussion over her contract and leave, though he said a summary of Gallant’s contract was part of the packet he received before the meeting.
“I have never seen a manager so dedicated to taking our cause and moving it forward,” deHaan said.