Fleager To Exit One Year Before Contract End

More than six months after Chino Hills City Manager Mike Fleager was granted an 18-month contract extension by the city council, he abruptly announced that he will remain in the city’s top administrative position a full year less than what the contract extension provided for.
Fleager, 57, who became city manager in 2008 upon the retirement of his predecessor, Doug LaBelle, apparently came to the decision to retire on his own without any prompting from the council. Indeed, the council seemed to be caught flatfooted by his announcement.
The community safety director for the affluent Los Angeles County city of Cerritos in the 1990s, Fleager went to work for Chino Hills as community services director in July 1999. His original contract as city manager was set to expire today, May 31, 2013. Last November 13, however, a week after Cynthia Moran had been elected to the city council but before she was sworn into office, the council voted 3-1, with Mayor Art Bennett and councilmen Ed Graham and Peter Rogers in the majority and then-councilwoman Gwen Norton-Perry in opposition, to extend Fleager’s contract until November 30, 2014. The council at that point was depleted to four members following former councilman Bill Kruger’s September resignation. He would not be replaced until a special election earlier this year. Norton-Perry, who did not seek reelection in November, opposed the appointment because it deprived Moran and current councilman Ray Marquez, who was elected in March, of any input in the decision of who would manage the city.
The move to extend Fleager’s tenure was defended as one that would give the city stability as it is making a case with the California Public Utilities Commission to rescind its 2009 decision to allow Southern California Edison to erect 197-foot high towers through the heart of Chino Hills for the Tehachapi Line, i.e. electrical cables to carry electricity from what is to be the world’s largest wind power field in Kern County to the Los Angeles metropolitan area. The public utilities commission’s decision is due in July.
Fleager, in making his announcement, said he would retire this November, with one year left on his current contract. The timing of Fleager’s announcement triggered widespread speculation as to what had prompted it, including suggestions that he was privy to information presaging a decision by the public utilities commission that would be unfavorable to Chino Hills.
Fleager offered testimony on behalf of the city to the Public Utilites Commission in March. In some quarters he was criticized for having provided impolitic statements in the course of that testimony which were seen as strengthening the position of Southern California Edison, which wants to leave the electrical line above ground through Chino Hills rather than laying it below ground as large numbers of residents in the city are demanding.
Simultaneous with Fleager’s announcement, the city’s second-in-command, assistant city manager  Kathy Gotch announced she will retire in June. Gotch likely would have been a likely candidate as Fleager’s interim replacement.

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