Out As City Manager, Dunn Weighing Embarking On a Political Career

(July 17) Stephen Dunn, who recently retired as Upland city manager, is contemplating a run for city council.
Dunn has approaching three decades professional municipal experience, having worked in the finance departments in Buena Park and Fontana before he was hired to serve as Upland’s finance director in 2001. He served a short stint as interim city manager between the departure of Michael Milhiser and the hiring of Robb Quincey in the spring of 2005.  In January 2011,  City Hall was imploding in the midst of the scandal that had beset mayor John Pomierski, who was then under intense scrutiny by the FBI and would be indicted in March of that year. At that point, the city council placed Quincey on administrative leave as a consequence of the fallout surrounding the Pomierski situation and tapped Dunn to serve as interim city manager again. Four months later, the council fired Quincey and chose Dunn as his permanent replacement the following month.
Despite his promotion to city manager, Dunn continued to serve in the capacity of finance director. This left him acutely sensitive to the city’s precarious financial circumstance. As an example to city staff, Dunn accepted a salary and benefit package that was close to $200,000 less than what had been provided to Quincey.
In short order, Dunn embarked on a series of reforms at City Hall, cutting 27 staff positions, including four department heads. This represented an aggressive start on reining in runaway expenses plaguing the city’s operation. Nevertheless, this understandably engendered resentment and bitterness among some of those personnel who had been terminated, and spread alarm among some of the staff that remained employed. A whispering and anonymous letter writing and emailing campaign targeting Dunn ensued in which his managerial decisions and even elements of his personal life were viciously criticized.
Dunn weathered that challenge but tension inevitably set in among the city’s top managerial echelon as well as on the city council over the next two-and-a-half years as the city struggled with continuing financial challenges. City Hall was yet beset with holdovers from the Pomierski era and financial commitments made to the city’s various employees unions during the Pomierski/Quincey managerial tenure fell under increasing scrutiny, furthering divisions among both civic leaders and citizens. On occasion, Dunn in public uttered criticisms of certain council members. By mid-spring of this year, Dunn had grown exasperated with the council’s lack of willingness to sign onto several revenue enhancement options he had outlined. Reports of harsh words between Dunn and some members of the council behind closed doors reached the public. Shortly thereafter, Dunn’s departure was arranged with the signing of a separation agreement which provided him with one-year’s salary following his departure at the conclusion of the 2013-14 fiscal year on June 30.
Dunn on Wednesday of this week told the Sentinel he has not yet taken out candidacy papers to run for city council but that he is “seriously” contemplating a run for office.
“I’m undecided, but I am definitely leaning in favor of running,” he said.
He said he had no misgivings about making the transition from being what is supposed to be a non-political government functionary to a political entity. “Toward the end, as city manager I was becoming a political figure anyway,” he said. “As city manager I was not as successful as I wanted to be. As a member of the city council, I will know how to play that game to do what is best for the city.”
Dunn said, “Upland is a beautiful community. It has wonderful citizens. In city government, everyone has their own political agenda. I want the city to be everything people think it is. We need to get back to that. The right priorities have to be set by the city council.
“The city has a lot of issues and I know them pretty well,” Dunn continued. “Basically, I experienced a lot of frustration as city manager. As a member of the city council, I think I will be able to bring things to the table. I’d do what is in the best interest of the community. I love the city’s employees, but hard decisions have to be made.”
To start off with, Dunn said, he would devote attention to “the city’s infrastructure, the basics, streets, sidewalks, public safety.”
Mayor Ray Musser, who was vacationing in North Carolina when he was reached by the Sentinel this week, said of Dunn’s potential candidacy, “I would rather not comment. As mayor, who must work with whoever gets elected in November, I think it would be inappropriate for me to   make a statement about candidates in the upcoming election.”
Of  Brandt’s decision not to seek reelection, Musser said, “I will miss him very much. Brendan was a stabilizing presence on the council. He could be relied upon for making wise statements. I have  nothing but the highest respect for his leadership. He  brought us through some difficult financial times. He is leaving now that the city has turned that situation around and he feels  comfortable turning it over to someone else.”

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