Council to Pretend to Vote on Undisclosed New Town Manager Contract Signed Last Month


[This article is not about the merits or qualifications of the proposed new Town Manager. It is about the process the Town has undertaken and its relationship to good governance practices]

On the agenda for its February 14 council meeting, the council will c̶o̶n̶s̶i̶d̶e̶r appointi̶n̶g a new Town Manager.

Q: Why is part of that sentence crossed out, you ask? 

A: Because this already has been decided. Predetermined. Ink dry. In the can.  Done deal.  And, it has been for a month.  The agenda item isn't even a formality; it's a farce.

Why is the council pretending they are "considering" the item with public comment and a vote on February 14 when the inbound town manager received and signed her offer letter and employment contract a month ago, on or before January 18?

Notwithstanding the agendizing of the "consideration" of the contract and associated appointment, the truth is that over a month ago and without public knowledge, the inbound town manager was selected, terms negotiated, the town attorney instructed to draft an employment contract, and that contract tendered to and signed by the new town manager

Residents have heard nothing about this, including during the council meeting that occurred shortly thereafter on January 24. 

This is similar to other recent decisions which the council consciously chose to do the absolute bare legal minimum (which is debatable in some instances) instead of what is right and demonstrates the most basic understanding of good governance practices:

  • The proposed storm drain tax that was approved on January 24 and somehow printed, stuffed, mailed and in resident mailboxes within three business days.  Clearly, the envelopes and/or letters were ordered, printed and ready to drop before the vote occurred.

  • Assembling an "independent" tax advocacy group to push for the tax, before the meeting, discussion, public comment or vote occurred to proceed with the storm drain tax.

  • The appointment of the Interim Town Manager, under similar circumstances to this appointment, where the Interim Town Manager attended the council meeting and is introduced as such before any discussion, public comment, or voting occurred.

Whether or not you agree with the ultimate decisions being made, the reality is that the way in which they are being made (without prior public notice, input, discussion or voting) should be of concern to anyone who believes honesty, integrity, and good governance are important.

  • Did a subcommittee run loose without boundaries to the extent it exceeded its intended authority or charter, spending money on attorney fees, and having a candidate sign an employment contract before the council even considers voting on it with public comment?

  • Did the town council mistakenly not restrict the authority of one of its subcommittees, provide it with more authority than it should have, or just acquiesce and ignore those standard governance practices for the sake of expediency?

  • Is the town council unaware of or insensitive to the optics of this?

  • Did the council or its subcommittee violate the Brown Act?

Residents also might want to concern themselves with the legal advice the council and town are receiving from its law firm, which appears to be enabling this rather than saying “no, you shouldn’t do that.”  While there may be a difference between what is legal and what is right, the latter should prevail.  

For a council facing credibility issues because of the still-unresolved declaration of fiscal emergency and obfuscation of facts related to that and other town spending decisions and explanations, this approach is quite unfortunate.

Links

New Town Manager Employment Agreement, signed January 18 (see p16 of PDF): here