SB Mayor Rebuffed By Council On Chief-of-Staff Continuation

(December 3)  San Bernardino Mayor Carey Davis will be without a chief of staff as of January 1, pursuant to a vote of the San Bernardino City Council on Monday.
The council voted 5-2 against renewing the city’s contract with the consulting firm MICA-PR to serve in the capacity of chief of staff. MICA-PR is owned and managed by Michael McKinney, such that McKinney for the past eight months, since shortly after Davis assumed office in March, has been the de facto chief of staff.
Only council members Rikke Van Johnson and Virginia Marquez, the two members of the council remaining strongly aligned with Davis, voted to extend MICA-PR’s contract. The city’s contract with MICA-PR, at an annual rate of $125,000, ran until December 31, with two one-year extension options.
Davis’s reliance on McKinney for guidance thus far in his tenure as mayor has created some difficulty for Davis, who has enjoyed reasonably good relations with the rest of the council otherwise.
McKinney is not an uncontroversial figure. Through MICA-PR, he was involved, along with entrepreneur Scott Beard, in a 2013 effort to recall the entirety of the San Bernardino City Council and city attorney James Penman. That effort failed to qualify recall questions against then-mayor Pat Morris, Johnson, Marquez, councilman Fred Shorett, and then-councilmen Robert Jenkins and Chas Kelley, but did get adequate valid signatures on petitions to force recall questions against councilwoman Wendy McCammack and councilman John Valdivia, as well as Penman. The committee that sponsored the recall, San Bernardino Residents for Responsible Government, founded by Beard and directed by McKinney, raised and spent over $154,000, much of it put up by Beard, on the recall. The recall question against Valdivia failed but McCammack and Penman were removed from office.
Despite being recalled in the November 2013 municipal election. McCammack placed first among ten candidates vying for mayor that year. Davis finished second. With no single candidate garnering a majority of the vote, a runoff was held. McKinney served as Davis’ political consultant during that campaign. Davis defeated McCammack in the runoff election, which was held in February.
The affable Davis, an accountant, was a political neophyte unacquainted with the rough-and-tumble of politics, holding office or the bare-knuckled nature nor the subtleties of governance. He turned to McKinney, who had been largely responsible for his successful campaign, for guidance. Originally McKinney was brought in, under the guise of MICA-PR, on a purchase order that does not require a council vote and subsequently was given the contract through December 31, which the Council supported on a 4-1 vote with 2 absences. In agreeing to the contract, the council signed on to the rather uncommon arrangement of hiring his firm in the capacity of chief of staff.
McKinney, whose affiliation with Beard is no secret, ruffled feathers from the outset. In the first several months he was in office, Davis enjoyed a honeymoon with the new council, which included newcomers Henry Nickel, Benito Barrios and Jim Mulvihill. Indeed, Davis, who leads the council but is not empowered to vote, headed a coalition that numbered Mulvihill, Shorett, Johnson and Marquez as firm and fast members on practically all issues and Nickel and Barrios on a majority of issues.
In recent months, however, informed sources tell the Sentinel, McKinney’s abrasiveness has offended more and more members of the council and, according to one of those sources, he has “run roughshod” over city manager Alan Parker. He has burned bridges with the city council members one by one, to the point that Davis’s authority has eroded and the council is exerting its own influence.
One example of the contretemps that now exists between McKinney and various city officials is his effort to keep the city contracted with Westbound Communications for public relations services. The consensus of the council and city administration was that the city should get out from underneath its existing sole-source vendor relationship with Westbound, an Orange County-based public relations firm, which employs Carrie Gilbreth to oversee its work in San Bernardino on behalf of the city. Sentiment appeared to be running in favor of a competitively-bid and analyzed contract. One of the key points in reconsidering what firm the city should be using is that a local firm headquartered in San Bernardino would have a deeper understanding of the city, the region and local and regional politics. McKinney intervened when an effort was made to hold a request for qualifications (RFQ) recruitment process for public relations services going forward. McKinney, in an effort to keep the city contract with Westbound, with its corporate offices in the city of Orange, and Gilbreth intact, substituted in a less exacting request for proposals (RFP) recruitment process for the continuation of the public relations contract. The city council demanded recision of the RFP and demanded the RFQ be issued per the council’s order and an RFQ was reissued. Responses were received by the city and city manager Parker was said to have been holding back on a staff review of the responses until McKinney’s future status with the city was made clear.
In the run-up to Monday’s vote on renewing MICA-PR/McKinney’s contract, things became testy. Beard apparently threatened some council members, Nickel among them, with an electoral opposition effort if they did not vote to keep McKinney in place as Davis’s advisor.
Fred Shorett, who was considered to be Davis’s biggest ally on the council, was the councilman leading the charge to end McKinney’s contract.
Davis has been described as something of a fish out of water when he must function within a political context without the benefit of McKinney’s guidance and talking points. The growing rift between the mayor and the council, which ironically came about because of the Davis’s close association with McKinney, foreshadows a difficult time for Davis.

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