SB & Victorville Lock In New & Old City Managers For One and Four Years

San Bernardino County’s largest and fifth largest cities have taken significant action with regard to their respective city manager slots.
On Monday, the San Bernardino City Council unanimously voted to secure the services of Burbank City Manager Mark Scott to serve as city manager in the 213,000-population San Bernardino County seat for at least one year, effective February 8.
There has been a vacuum at the senior staff level at San Bernardino City Hall since last month, when Allen Parker, who technically remains as city manager, forged an agreement accepted in a closed session at the November 16 meeting that essentially provided him with a year’s salary and medical benefits for himself and his wife in return for his leaving the city without further ado, effective December 31.
Parker, who had been hired in March 2013 in the aftermath of the departures of former city manager Charles McNeeley and interim city manager Andrea Travis-Miller and the city’s August 2012 filing for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection, was given relatively high marks by even those who were critical of him in his handling of the city‘s bankruptcy exit effort, which has been dogged by the city’s continuing financial challenges and the seeming inability of the accounting firms the city had hired to wade through existing municipal documentation and complete audits of the city’s 2011-12, 2012-13, 2013-14, 2014-15 budgets.
Parker had been hired during the last year of former mayor Patrick Morris’s eight-year tenure as mayor and though he and Morris’s successor, Carey Davis, appeared to be on the same page with regard to significantly reducing municipal expenses through drastic cuts in personnel as well as salary and benefit reductions for remaining employees, the relationship between Parker and Davis soured in December 2014 when Parker balked at endorsing Davis’s bid to keep Mike McKinney as Davis’s chief of staff. Their relationship never seemed to recover and Parker grew more and more disengaged in his function at City Hall, a development that resulted in councilman Henry Nickel becoming disillusioned with Parker. The continuous lack of coordination between Parker and Davis resulted in a state of malaise within San Bernardino City government that, according to Nickel, became untenable.
At the December 7 meeting of the San Bernardino City Council, city attorney Gary Saenz offered this terse statement: “I’m announcing that on November 16, 2015 the mayor and council voted 4-3, councilpersons Nickel, [Virginia] Marquez and [James] Mulvihill voting no, to approve a transition agreement and mutual release between the city and Allen Parker, our city manager, in exchange for a mutual release of claims and the resignation of Allen Parker. The terms of the agreement were as follows: 1) 12 months of base salary payable in equal installments beginning January 15, 2016 and ending in December 2016; 2) continuance of health insurance for 12 months from the resignation date; 3) a resignation date of December 31, 2015. The agreement was signed by Mr. Parker and the city on November 23, 2015.”
Within two weeks, the council had collectively resolved to fill Parker’s shoes with Scott. The council appeared relatively enthusiastic about making a new start with Scott at the city’s helm and some even expressed confidence that Scott’s strength of personality and willingness to assert his bureaucratic and personal authority would be a benefit to the city. Nevertheless, there was an overriding sense that Scott’s selection was a marriage of convenience between a rudderless municipal operation and a veteran and well-traveled top city administrator who was on the brink of bailing out of his current assignment in Burbank.
Indeed, it was that strength of personality and his assertiveness with his political masters on the Burbank council that had led to Scott’s tenuous position there.
The same night of the meeting in San Bernardino at which Parker’s departure was arranged behind closed doors, the Burbank City Council held a marathon meeting that lasted for more than six hours and stretched into the wee hours of November 17. It was at that point, over what for many would not have appeared to be major issue that would create any kind of contretemps that Scott took a stand – involving administrative and control brinkmanship – that precipitated a fracture with a faction of the Burbank council.
That matter related to the creation of a new job title and salary range for an administrative position in the public works department including a raise in salary from $140,000 to $154,000 per year, which had thrice come before the council without being resolved. And while this adjustment to the city’s personnel hierarchy and chain of command is not the sort of bureaucratic hill most city managers are willing to die on, Scott had informed Burbank Mayor Bob Frutos that if the council did not approve the item, he would submit his letter of resignation.
When Councilman David Gordon, who had previously cast a crucial vote in support of making the change in the public works administrative position title and salary advocated by Scott, rescinded his vote because he said he had previously supported it when he actually intended to vote against it, the matter was brought back for a vote. When the matter was voted upon, it failed by a 3-2 vote. In its aftermath, Scott questioned the council’s rationale for not backing his decisions with regard to the administration of the city, including personnel decisions. Upon hearing from the council that some had questions about the salary level and the transparency of the process, Scott publicly stated that he “got the message from three of you, loud and clear and that’s all I need to hear.”
Though he did not say explicitly in public that he was resigning, Scott’s statement with regard to having gotten the message was a code to the council that he was quitting. Subsequently, Scott stated publicly that he was not resigning but instead retiring, though he did not specify a date. Upon his hiring by the city council in San Bernardino, it was disclosed that his last day in Burbank will be February 7.
Whether his bristling at what might be termed as “close council oversight” or “council micromanaging” in Burbank presages difficulty in San Bernardino is an open question. San Bernardino is a charter city and its charter contains some very rare if not unique provisions which instill in the mayor an administrative authority uncommon or unheard of in most other California cities. Given the manner in which Davis and Parker were at loggerheads the final 12 months of Parker’s residency on the sixth floor at City Hall and the near state of paralysis that left the city in, a key question is how well Scott and Davis will be able to cooperate and function in synchronicity, or at least coexist without stepping all over one another.
Scott’s contract runs for one year into February 2017 but has a 30-day notice to terminate and specifies a yearly salary of $248,000, with the same benefits as other members of the management/confidential bargaining group. In Burbank, Scott is making $52,000 more per year than he will make in San Bernardino: $300,000 per year plus benefits. San Bernardino will pay Scott $19,000 per year more than it was paying Parker.
In addition to the $248,000 per year – equivalent to $20,666.66 per month – to be paid to Scott plus the standard management benefits, the city is going to pay his relocation costs. The city’s charter requires that the city manager live in the city. The city waived that requirement for Parker, but it became a problem issue, with many of the city’s critics referencing his non-residential status in charging that he was insensitive to a host of issues relating to quality of life in the city.
Parker has already departed from City Hall and this week deputy city manager Bill Manis was filling in for him. To cover Parker’s function from now until February 7, the council has selected police chief Jarrod Burguan to serve as interim city manager, consenting to boost his salary by just under $1,000 for the month of January to $19,14.88 to compensate him for his added duties.
Forty-two miles north, in 115,903-population Victorville, the city council there extended city manager Doug Robertson’s contract, which expired in June, another four years, through June 2019. The contract raises his yearly salary to $262,500.
Robertson had gone four years without a raise. He was previously drawing $225,000 per year in salary. The contract calls for an annual performance evaluation. It permits the city, by means of a simple majority vote, to terminate Robertson at any time prior to the end of the contract on the proviso that it confer upon him a 12-month severance package. That proviso does not apply if the reason for termination cites him with having committed a crime or activity involving self-enrichment.
The city council formed a two member committee to determine a fair compensation level for Robertson and negotiate an offer he would accept. The council approved the offer, which Robertson deemed acceptable, last week on a 4-0 vote with councilman Eric Negrete abstaining.
Robertson’s duties as city manager have intensified since April 29, 2013, when the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed a civil suit alleging the city, assistant city manager Keith Metzler, the Southern California Logistics Airport Authority and bond underwriter Kinsell, Newcomb & De Dios defrauded investors by grossly inflating the value of four hangars at Souther California Logistics Airport in a 2008 municipal bond offering. As a consequence of the SEC action, Metzler’s attention has been compromised by having to concentrate from time to time on his legal defense, resulting in an intensification of Robertson’s workload.

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