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City manager council’s top topic

Submitted by on 1, January 5, 2011 – 12:02 am7 Comments

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.


  • Denise Lai says:

    Hi Michele. I’d like to add some color behind the meeting for those who did not attend. For me, I thought the discussion around hiring the next city manager was sorely lacking. I understand the city employees being unprepared; they literally had two working days prior to this agenda item. What I did not understand was Mayor Gilmore: she fired AMG a week ago, yet seemed wholly unprepared for the discussion last night despite the known urgency to get to candidate interviews by as soon as possible (city says early February is their “aggressive” deadline which is a euphemism for “not feasible” IMO). Mayor Gilmore didn’t seem to have any cogent ideas prepared to guide the city management in their search for the next mayor. Also, a small correction: councilmembers Johnson and deHaan had a lively discussion about how the next CM should be from California and familiar with California finances and laws. During that conversation, Mayor Gilmore and Councilmembers Bonta and Tam were wholly disinterested in that subtopic. They did not appear to support it one bit. Also, Mayor Gilmore’s inquiry into whether it made sense to “think outside of the box” and hire someone from the corporate sector fell flat on all councilmembers. It was Mayor Gilmore’s primary contribution to the discussion. Why did she appear wholly unprepared for this topic? What’s really going on?

  • John Piziali says:

    Mayor Gilmore did not fire AMG a week ago. That simply is not true. Denise your opinion of the council meeting varies quite a bit from mine, but then they are just opinions and we all have them.

  • Kate Quick says:

    I do not think Denise’s characterizations of the discussion are quite accurate. The Council members discussed the former brochure, what was transferable about it and what was out of date. They had obviously read it and thought about things that were needed to be changed because they offered them. They also discussed residency and appeared (all of them) to have thought about the legality of making City residency mandatory and how that might be handled. And, they discussed the appropriateness of consideration of out of state candidates in such a way as make me think they had been cogitating on the necessity for applicants to understand California laws and the fiscal crisis we are currently in.

    I think there is quite a bit of “the eye of the beholder” in Denise’s comments; it seems she is well prepared to dislike anything the new council majority does, which is too bad.

  • Adam Gillitt says:

    Ironically, the data that Rob Bonta is looking for was compiled during the Council race because it was used as a wedge in SunCal-sponsored advertising against the ICM: http://www.flickr.com/photos/54212193@N05/5129565894/in/set-72157625283037124/ and further normalized per capita over at Action Alameda News based on SF Chronicle data: http://www.action-alameda-news.com/city-manager-salaries-for-bay-area-cities/

    Mayor Gilmore’s suggestion to bring someone in from the business sector fell flat because of the tremendous amount of knowledge of California Municipal and Civil codes that any businessperson would have to learn before becoming an effective City Administrator. Her suggestion came on the heels of the lengthy discussion of why it was so important to consider candidates with City Management experience within California, not other states, which made her suggestion all the more surprising.

    Also, Lisa Goldman, Temporary Acting Interim City Manager, informed those gathered that the City Manager in San Leandro was retiring at the end of June, 2011, adding to the half dozen cities around the Bay Area who are now recruiting for the position.

  • John Piziali says:

    If you don’t believe Adam, Kate, Denise, or me. I have a suggestion, go to the City of Alameda web page, then to the webcast center and listen to the council meeting. You can jump to different items and listen for yourself which is probably the best way to get your information about our city.

  • Denise Lai says:

    I’ve been misunderstood in my prior comment. When I said that that was Mayor Gilmore’s primary contribution to the discussion, I did not mean to imply that it had any value. It had none. It was so far off from any mark. Yet it was her biggest idea for the discussion. Embarrassing! She appeared to be trying to brainstorm from the dais and come up with anything that might be smart to say. She was unprepared to lead that discussion which is bizarre to say the least.

    • John Piziali says:

      Denise you have not only been misunderstood, you have misunderstood the whole council meeting. Again I would steer anyone who reads this to go to the city of Alameda web site and then to the webcast center. Please listen to the council meeting and make your own informed opinion, why listen to us when you can hear it for yourself and form your own opinion.

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