Manis In As New Upland City Manager

Bill Manis, the current city manager in Rosemead and the former deputy city manager in San Bernardino, will become Upland city manager on January 1, if his contract with the city is approved by the city council as anticipated Monday evening.
Manis is set to replace Marty Thouvenell, who has been acting in the capacity of interim city manager since August 8, 2016 in the aftermath of the forced departure of former city manager Rod Butler. Under another arrangement scheduled to be approved by the city council on December 11, Thouvenell could remain with the city in the capacity of managerial consultant for one year. The city has been seeking a full-fledged replacement for Butler for 16 months.
In that time, there have been numerous false signals that Butler’s successor had been chosen, including meetings of the council that took place during public and closed sessions relating to the hiring of a new top staffer. Those meetings concluded with no votes taken or indication of action.
This week however, the agenda for this upcoming Monday’s council meeting was publicly posted, with the first scheduled item of business on the agenda after the meeting’s opening ceremonials calling for “approval of a city manager employment agreement with Bill R. Manis.”
Manis has been serving as city manager of Rosemead since April 2016, where his tenure has proven relatively uneventful.
In San Bernardino, Manis was hired as deputy city manager under then-city manager Alan Parker as that city was seeking to emerge from the Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection the city filed for and was granted in 2012, and he oversaw that city’s economic development, community development, public works and housing departments. He was accessible in his role, which was a challenging one because of the financial strain the city was under. His closest encounter with controversy in San Bernardino came as a result of the city’s move toward privatizing its sanitation division, which involved closing out its in-house refuse disposal service and holding a bidding competition among local trash haulers in order to award one of them the city trash handling franchise. A protocol for that competition was laid out, including a set of conditions which restricted the competitors from lobbying city officials and requiring that communications between the respective trash companies and city officials be limited to a circumscribed set of city officials, including Manis. The competition narrowed between Burrtec Waste Industries, Athens Services and Waste Management, Inc. When Burrtec flagrantly violated that protocol and treated city sanitation workers to free dinner within the foyer of San Bernardino City Hall on the nights of city council meetings and then encouraged those employees to speak before the council and demand that the city choose Burrtec as its trash franchisee, no effort to penalize Burrtec was made. Athens, however, presented a proposal that offered the city a greater return and wider range of services under the franchise contract than did Waste Management or Burrtec, according to an independent evaluation of the franchise bids. Nevertheless, city staff, including Manis, complied with direction from elected city officials who had received substantial political contributions from Burrtec to make a recommendation in favor of Burrtec receiving the franchise. Based upon that recommendation, a divided city council voted to award the franchise to Burrtec.
Manis served as the City of Banning’s economic development director and public information officer from 2011 to September 2014. He also served in the capacity of Banning’s redevelopment director until 2012, when redevelopment agencies throughout the State of California were closed out by laws passed by the state legislature in 2011.
As the economic development director in the City of Cypress prior to his time in Banning, Manis was credited with assisting that city weather the economic downturn that began in 2007 with greater resiliency than its neighboring jurisdictions by employing a strategy of supporting local businesses through the recession to help them keep their workforces employed and tax revenues flowing.
Previously, over a 30-year career, the 57-year-old Manis worked for the cities of Corona, Santa Ana, and Cerritos.
Manis boasts a bachelor of science degree in municipal and regional planning from Cal Poly Pomona and has certified downtown professional certificates from California State University San Bernardino and the California Downtown Association.
The salary listed in his Upland employment agreement is $238,500 plus benefits valued at $88,506, for a total annual compensation package of $327,006.
Manis is to be considered an at-will employee, meaning that, according to his contract, he “serves at the pleasure of the city council. Nothing in this agreement shall prevent the city council from terminating this agreement and the services of the city manager at its sole discretion without cause.” Manis can be terminated at any time upon the votes of three members of the five member council to do so, with the exception of “during or within a period of 90 days next succeeding the date when any member of the city council takes the oath required to commence any term of office.”
Under the contract, Manis is guaranteed a six month severance package, including his current rate of pay and benefits, if he is terminated.
Manis resides in Claremont with his wife, Judi, who is a vice president for AT&T.
At press time, Manis could not be located for comment.
In hiring Manis, the city stepped over deputy city manager Jeannette Vagnozzi, who was recruited in July 2015 to come to Upland from her position as assistant to the city manager of La Verne. Vagnozzi began with the City of Gracious Living in August 2015 in the three positions of city clerk, administrative services director and deputy city manager. Upon the departure of Butler in July 2016, it was widely believed that Vagnozzi had an inside shot at succeeding him. As the recruitment drive extended itself to beyond a year, outside prognosticators ventured pronouncements that Vagnozzi’s ascendancy was not in the cards. They have now been shown to have been correct.
The city council has also extended, effective on the same January 1, 2018 date of Manis’s hiring, a consultancy contract with Thouvenell for a full year. That contract will pay him $108,000 annually, or $9,000 per month. According to a staff report dated December 11 but obviously completed prior to that given its inclusion in the support documentation for Monday night’s council meeting agenda posted yesterday, city attorney James Markman stated, “The proposed management consulting agreement with Martin Thouvenell was drafted to allow Mr. Thouvenell to continue to provide assistance on significant projects currently in progress as well as general advisement. The scope of work includes recommendations to the city manager and city council from time to time, adoption of such measures related to organizational structure and development, economic development, development related issues, management coaching, and general advisement to [the] city manager/city council on all matters mutually agreed upon. The term of the agreement is for one year concluding in December 2018; however, there are provisions to terminate the agreement by either party with thirty days advance notice.”
Extending the consultancy contract to Thouvenell brings three high ranking city administrators into the city’s management echelon, some 20 years after the City of Upland dispensed with its deputy city manager by relieving Mike Matlock of that position and title. The rationale at that time was that Upland was not a large enough city to warrant having a deputy city manager. In 2005, however, the city reversed course, permitting its then-newly hired city manager, Robb Quincey, who had left his city manager’s post in Hesperia to come to Upland, to recruit his deputy city manager in Hesperia, Rod Foster, to come to Upland to serve as deputy manager and assist him. Indeed, for most of his tenure as deputy city manager in Upland until he left to become city manager of Colton, Foster essentially functioned as the de-facto city manager in guiding the city’s day-to-day operations, as he was far more experienced in municipal affairs than Quincey, who despite having a master’s degree and a doctorate in public administration, had spent more of his career in the private sector than in the public sector, with the city management position in Hesperia being his first assignment leading a municipality. After Foster’s 2009 departure to Colton, Upland functioned without a deputy city manager until Vagnozzi’s 2015 hiring.
It now appears that for all of 2018, Upland’s managerial cabin will be inhabited by three personalities.
-Mark Gutglueck

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