By Mark Gutglueck
In a move that carried with it an unintended impact on the City of Upland’s now presumably futile effort to keep its police chief from departing and which will conjointly likely undercut the city manager’s ultimate authority and escalate the pay grades of the senior members of the police department going forward, the city council Monday night approved a three-year contract with Rosemary Hoerning to serve as city manager.
Hoerning, who had served in the role of the city’s public works director since 2011 before she was tapped to take on the interim assignment of acting city manager last May upon the city council’s sacking of Jeannette Vagnozzi, was promoted to the full-fledged city manager’s position in February, pending the forging of a contract mutually acceptable to her and the council. Prior to the council’s February commitment to Hoerning, however, complications with regard to Police Chief Darren Goodman had arisen, and in the intervening month-and-a-half, that circumstance has grown increasingly delicate. It now appears that the city council and Hoerning have reacted too late and with insufficient substance to prevent Goodman from jumping ship within the next several months to the assistant police chief’s position in Riverside.
Meanwhile, Hoerning yet remains tasked to persuade Goodman to abide in the responsibility he took on in 2018 when he left the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department to become Upland police chief. Coming to Upland at that point was considered a step up for the rapidly advancing Goodman, who just a month previously had earned his PhD from USC’s Rossier School of Education.
Goodman appeared to be a good fit in Upland. Reportedly, however, two circumstances represented a threat to the prospect of his remaining in place for what is anticipated to be the remainder of his career – a duration of perhaps as long as a decade.
One of those consisted of a lack of protection in his contract with Upland that allows a simple majority of the city council to direct the city manager to fire him without cause. While details were unclear, word was that Goodman had grown concerned with the lack of stability and rationality on the city council, and wanted a language change requiring that his firing only be able to take place if a defined cause was cited, and that the council be unable to cashier him on a mere 3-to-2 majority vote but would need four votes to instruct the city manager to effectuate his firing.
The second hazard to Goodman’s longevity in Upland materialized, the Sentinel is informed, when Riverside Police Chief Sergio Diaz last summer signaled his pending retirement and then exited in September. Among those applying for the police chief vacancy in Riverside was Goodman, who lives in Riverside.
The Sentinel is reliably informed that Goodman was a serious contender for the job, and that the major factor that resulted in Riverside City Manager Al Zelinka’s decision to confer the police chief’s position on Lawrence Gonzalez, who did get the job rather than Goodman, was the familiarity Gonzalez had with the department as a consequence of his 27 years there, including the extended stint he had served as deputy chief during Diaz’s tenure and the four months he had served as interim chief following Diaz’s departure.
Nevertheless, management in Riverside remains impressed with Goodman, and is reportedly still interested in and is said to have expressed an intent toward hiring him into a senior administrative post with the police department.
Riverside’s near-hiring of Goodman appears to have motivated the Upland City Council to take steps to secure a commitment from Goodman in the form of a contract that will keep him in place in the City of Gracious Living for the foreseeable future.
That assignment fell to Hoerning as the acting city manager, creating a slightly awkward circumstance in that simultaneously there were negotiations ongoing with Hoerning, ones being handled at the city council’s direction by City Attorney Steven Flower to secure her services as city manager. It appears that Hoerning’s services were obtained at a price below that amount of money the city council is prepared to offer Goodman to keep him in place as police chief.
For managerial purists, this presents a dilemma, since on the City of Upland’s organizational chart, Hoerning, as city manager, is Goodman’s superior in his role as police chief. Through the creation of a circumstance in which Goodman will be provided with higher pay than Hoerning, who is technically his boss, there is concern that the city’s proper line of authority will be compromised. In only the most rare of circumstances does someone higher up the hierarchy in an organization make less money than those answerable to him or her.
This week, when the city council considered finalizing and approving the employment contract with Hoerning, the contract negotiations with Goodman were yet pending. Given the council’s instructions to Hoerning to significantly exceed the across-the-board compensation being provided to Goodman to get his signature on a contract of five-year’s duration or more, there exists the possibility, at least, that Upland will find itself in a situation in which one of its department heads is being remunerated more than the city manager.
When the city council took up the issue of Hoerning’s contract Monday night, Hoerning left the main floor of the council’s meeting chamber. Flower then spelled out the contents of his report with regard to the terms he had negotiated with Hoerning for a three-year contract. He and Hoerning had agreed upon her receiving a monthly salary of $19,167.67, which Flower said was equivalent to an annual salary of $230,000.04. This compared favorably, from the city’s standpoint, Flower at one point said, to the $270,000 to $280,000 the city manager prior to Vagnozzi, Bill Manis, was provided. A few minutes later, however, Flower, after conferring with Finance Director Londa Bock-Helms, corrected himself to say that Manis had been provided with a $238,500 salary. Hoerning would also be provided with a car allowance, Flower said, and “benefits and leave accrual commensurate with that provided to executive management staff, and additional conferred compensation of $7,200 per year.”
Flower did not specify the amount of the benefits, but based on calculations run by the Sentinel from public documents, those are likely quantified at $46,000 per year in various coverages plus another $63,000 provision of the city’s contribution toward her retirement, such that she will receive a total annual compensation package of $369,800
According to Flower, the contract runs for three years effective February 10, 2020 and will automatically renew for another three years on February 10, 2023 unless either party gives notice prior to that date. According to Flower’s staff report, $351,946 was budgeted to pay for the services of a city manager in 2019-20, which ends on July 1, so there is adequate money in this year’ budget to cover Hoerning’s total compensation in the current year, given that until February 10, she was being remunerated at a lower rate of pay.
According to the employment agreement, Hoerning can be terminated for cause if it can be established that she has proven herself unfit or incompetent to carry out her duties to the minimal professional standards expected of a city manager, has been negligent or neglectful, evinces dishonesty, is intoxicated while at work, becomes addicted to drugs or alcohol, is absent without leave, is convicted of a serious crime, makes improper or unauthorized use of public property, accepts bribes, becomes infirm or unable to physically or mentally carry out her assignments, breaches the employment agreement or falsifies any city documents or records. If she is terminated for cause, she is due no severance pay. If she is terminated without cause, she is to be provided with six months severance pay.
Before moving to a vote, Councilwoman Janice Elliott, at first obliquely raised the issue of the potential for conferring a contract upon Hoerning at a lower salary than might be provided to one of her underlings, and sought to dissuade the council from acting on Hoerning’s contract prior to settling the contractual issue with Goodman.
Endeavoring to subtly nudge her colleagues into considering the issue without overtly raising the subject of the potential threat to the hierarchical relationship between the city manager and police chief, Elliott stated that “At the March 9 meeting we approved salary grade increases for both the police chief and the city manager. It was my express desire, in private with the city manager, that the chief be given the best offer that we could afford to retain his services.”
Mayor Debbie Stone at that point evinced difficulty grasping what Elliott was driving at.
“Councilmember Elliott, we’re not talking about the chief,” Stone said.
Elliott sought to be a bit more direct, though this came across as a bridge too far for Stone and Councilman Ricky Felix, who have a reputation among elected officials throughout the county as being somewhat intellectually challenged. Neither seemed to appreciate the relationship between pay grade and the ranking of authority as was under examination relating to the city manager’s salary and the police chief’s salary.
Elliott tried once more. “It is my understanding that these negotiations have not been concluded,” she said. “Because of the correlation between the city manager and the chief’s compensation, I believe this discussion is premature. I move that we postpone making a decision on this item until after the negotiations with our police chief are completed. Until we know if he is staying, and if he does, what his compensation will be, it is unwise to decide on Rosemary’s [Hoerning’s] pay increase at this time.”
By the mayor’s verbal reaction and Felix’s body language, both seemed perturbed with Elliot. “We’re not talking about the chief,” the mayor blurted. “We’re talking about the city manager.”
Councilman Bill Velto gave discourse to Stone and Felix’s befuddlement.
“I’m trying to understand what does this have to do with the chief of police,” Velto said.
“It really doesn’t,” Mayor Stone said.
Elliot once more sought to move through the rationale for her request for the delay.
“We made the decision to allow Rosemary to change the pay grade on the chief of police and we also changed the pay grade to the city manager,” she said. “In most chains of command, the city manager makes more than those who are subordinate to her. So, when you negotiate, you normally negotiate the subordinate’s position first, so that when you have the person that is supervising them, [she isn’t] being paid less. We don’t have an agreement. We haven’t concluded our negotiations.”
This was too much for Felix, who somewhat testily intoned, “Well, the thing is we work on the contract of the city manager, not the police chief. The police chief is between Rosemary and the chief. We have no say in that. We basically gave her the tools to make a very generous offer, and that’s where we leave it at [sic]. We can’t say, ‘Hey! Do this.’ That’s not our job. Right now, our job is to give her a contract or not give her a contract, as simple as that. It’s not about, ‘Hey! Go do the chief.’ We can do that if we want. I can send her an email right now: ‘Work on the chief’s contract.’ I can send her an email right now. But, we can’t hold back the vote just because the chief doesn’t have a contract yet. Maybe she already extended one out, but he’s waiting maybe three months to do it. We’re not going to push this vote back three months.”
“And besides that, he is not our employee,” said Mayor Stone, meaning, essentially, that the police chief is answerable directly to the city manager.
“Understood, but he’s an employee that’s extremely important to this city, and for me it’s extremely important that she has done everything that she can in order to retain his services,” Elliott said. “If that has not been done, I am very uncomfortable about approving this contract.”
Velto said, “The presumption would be, I think, we made that quite clear to the city manager in the closed session, that we waned to make every effort with an outstanding compensation package, and from my understanding, I think that’s what’s happened. Whether or not the chief has made his decision, we should not be bound on that. We should not bind that on the city manager’s contract. I think we set a precedence there that could not be very well accepted by any council moving forward.”
At that point, Councilman Rudy Zuniga sensed the back-and-forth between his colleagues was evolving with each exchange toward a more explicit revelation of confidential information dealt with during the city council’s closed sessions, with virtually no prospect of Stone or Felix, and only slightly better chance of Velto, grasping what Elliott was trying to convey. Zuniga sought to foreclose the discussion.
“I understand what you’re saying, Janice,” Zuniga said. “We did give [Hoerning] the ability for a certain amount, but it is very hard, because we cannot talk about employees and negotiations and such, so this is a very touchy subject. It’s hard. I know she has spoken to me about what is going on with that. I don’t fear that it’s not happening. It is something we can talk to her in closed session or on a one-on-one, but I don’t know if we should be bringing this to a council meeting with [regard to] the chief’s compensation. I feel she has reached out to him and she came back to us and now she’s going back.”
At that point, Flower, who has in private expressed some degree of misgiving over Stone’s and Felix’s ability to wield complicated subject matter or comprehend in its entirely the counsel he renders, recognized at once the advantage Zuniga’s interjection provided toward closing out the council’s discourse before its members compromised privileged backroom communications and strategies beyond what they already had.
“This conversation has gone much further afield than I’m comfortable with,” Flower broke in at that point. “The chief’s contract and any personnel decision related to him is not on the agenda. It is a matter for the city manager as the individual charged with the administration of the staff and personnel. The subject before you tonight is her contract, the proposed contract.”
The council then took up Elliott’s motion, which died for a lack of a second.
Felix this time motioned to approve the contract with Hoerning, which was seconded by Stone. The motion passed, 4-to-1, with Elliott dissenting.
The Sentinel is informed that Upland’s effort to keep Goodman in place is very likely doomed, even in the face of the city’s willingness to offer him a quarter of a million dollars per year annual salary to stay.
Available information indicates that under his employment agreement now in place, Goodman is scheduled to receive $184,000 in salary, other pay in an amount projected between $111,00 and $128,000 depending on multiple factors, along with $60,735 in benefits for a total annual compensation of between $355,735 and $372,735 in 2020. According to reliable sources, Upland at most is prepared to up Goodman’s salary to the aforementioned quarter of a million dollars. Were Upland to come across with a $66,000 salary enhancement, that would boost Goodman to a salary, before any benefits or add-ons, of $250,000, and a total compensation package at the low end of $421,735 and $438,735 at the high end.
The Sentinel has learned that Riverside is working toward creating an assistant police chief’s position, one that is being carved out specifically with Goodman in mind, which will pay its holder a salary of $270,270, roughly $63,000 in other pay and $110,000 in benefits, for a total annual compensation package of $443,270.
There are other inducements that will draw Goodman to Riverside, which Upland cannot hope to compete with. Goodman lives in the area of Riverside, such that his employment with the Riverside Police Department will virtually eliminate upwards of 90 percent of his commuting time. While in the assistant police chief’s position, Goodman would be groomed to become police chief upon current Police Chief Gonzalez’s anticipated retirement in 2023, whereupon Goodman would move into that post, which currently provides an annual salary of $297,000 and will pay over $312,000 in 2023, along with other pay of $15,000 and benefits in the range of $150,000 per year, for a total annual compensation package of $477,000.
Public management professionals indicate that giving Goodman the raise to $250,000 would likely prove problematic for the City of Upland in the future on a number of counts. Upon Goodman’s retirement, with the quarter of a million dollar bar having been set, his successor would likely expect compensation on a par with what the position already pays. In addition, the salary increase for the police chief would create pressure for the city to up the pay grades for all of police management, including the department’s captains and lieutenants.