Councilman Miffed At Assistant City Manager Not Taking Interim Assignment

A minor contretemps broke out at the Monday December 17 Barstow City Council meeting, when Councilman Rich Harpole took issue with Assistant City Manager Cindy Prothro’s reluctance to serve as interim city manager following the departure of City Manager Curt Mitchell at the end of this month and the anticipated hiring of a new city manager in April, following a roughly four-month-long recruitment effort.
The council was discussing an item calling for Mitchell to serve in the interim capacity after he officially retires on December 29. Harpole wanted to know why Prothro could not take on the assignment.
After reading the assistant city manager’s job description, which includes the language “serves as acting city manager in his or her absence,” Harpole asked Prothro, “Do you believe yourself capable of doing your duties as described in your job description?’
Prothro responded, “Yes.”
Are you capable of serving as the acting city manager?” Harpole asked.
“Yes, sir,” said Prothro.
“That is an essential part of your job description,” said Harplole. “We pay you for that now.”
“Yes,” said Prothro.
“Are you willing to perform your duty as outlined in your job description recognizing you are an at-will employee under contract to the city to perform these duties?” Harpole asked.
“I will perform my job as directed by the council,” said Prothro.
“The question is: Are you willing to do this?” Harpole pressed.
“I’m willing, but I prefer not to because I’m in the midst of negotiations and I’m also planning on retiring soon,” said Prothro.
“So, if you are unwilling to perform your functions, why should we be willing to continue you in this position?” Harpole asked.
“I did not say I was unwilling,” Prothro said.
Harpole then said that the council’s willingness to bypass Prothro for the interim position was an indication that they consider “Cindy is incompetent, incapable of performing her duties as outlined in her job description.”
“I don’t think I would put it that way,” said Mayor Julie Hackbarth-McIntyre.
“I don’t think you could take it any other way,” retorted Harpole. “This is her job. This is specifically listed in her job description. It is her responsibility. We are paying her today to fulfill these responsibilities and by voting to say we are not going to have her, we’re going to spend another $107 an hour for work we are already paying her to do. I can’t see that as anything other than a vote of no confidence in Assistant City Manager Prothro’s ability to do her job.”
“Okay,” said Hackbarth-McIntyre. “That’s your opinion.”
“Are you willing to do the job?” Harpole asked Prothro.
“Yes, sir,” she responded.
“Can you give me one good reason why we should spend more money to get service we’re paying you to do right now?” Harpole said.
At that point, Assistant City Attorney Matthew Summers intervened. “That question is better directed at the council,” Summers said.
Ultimately, the council voted 3-1, with Hackbarth-McIntyre, councilwoman Carmen Hernandez and Councilman Tim Silva prevailing and Harpole dissenting to contract with Mitchell strictly as an hourly employee with no benefits and no accrual of vacation or leave time to serve with the title of interim city manager in the city’s top administrative post until the city hires his official replacement, which is anticipated to occur in April.
-Mark Gutglueck

Leave a Reply