With the fate of her predecessor in large measure hanging over her, Teri Ledoux was selected by the San Bernardino City Council to serve for the next year-and-a-half as city manager in the county seat.
Ledoux was offered, and apparently accepted, the 18-month contract which is effective July 1, without an explicit understanding as to her salary and benefit level, although it is understood that she will maintain at the least the $172,000 per year total compensation level she received as assistant city manager under recently departed City Manager Andrea Travis Miller.
Of note is that in August 2017, Travis-Miller was hired as city manager pursuant to a five-year contract. That contract, however, involved a severance arrangement that permitted Travis-Miller’s immediate termination without notice and a severance package equal to one year’s compensation. Miller was only 16 months, or less than 27 percent, into the 60-month duration of the contract, when in December 2018 a move to remove her as city manager materialized. Though a consensus on the council to jettison her had not formed at that point, over the course of the next five months adequate votes on the council manifested to cashier Travis-Miller, and her removal was effectuated on May 29.
In the run-up to her forced departure, Travis-Miller sought to scorch the earth in the 220,000-population city by having key administrative personnel at City Hall serving under her exit with her, such as the department heads in the finance, public works and community development divisions along with Ledoux, leaving the city rudderless.
Ledoux’s departure with Travis-Miller was foreclosed, however, in no small measure by the offer that was made to have her to serve in the capacity of interim or acting city manager in what turned out to be the seven-week-and-six day gap between Travis-Miller’s April 3 suspension and her May 29 firing. Ledoux filled in for Travis-Miller during that time and remained in place after her mentor’s departure. There were reports extant that Travis-Miller, who had persuaded Ledoux to come to San Bernardino to serve as assistant city manager in October 2017 and was therefore thought to be able to rely upon LeDoux’s loyalty when the chips were down with the city council, had been somewhat cavalier and on occasion mildly verbally abusive in her treatment of Ledoux over the last year, thereby driving a gratuitous wedge between the two women.
Ledoux, 60, who has also been known professionally as Teri Baker, graduated from the University of Redlands with a bachelor of science degree in business administration and management and went on to get a master’s degree in public administration at Cal State San Bernardino. She has extensive previous experience in San Bernardino, where from 1995 until 2010, she was a lower-level assistant to the city manager. In 2010, she was promoted to the post of director of administrative services with the city. In July 2012, while she was yet on very good terms with Travis-Miller, as Travis-Miller was promoted from her position as a high level assistant to the city manager to the role of acting/interim city manager after Charles McNeely’s departure just prior to San Bernardino’s filing for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection, Ledoux was promoted to become Travis-Miller’s top drawer assistant to the city manager. In March 2013, she departed to serve as assistant to the city manager in Huntington Beach, remaining there for two years and eight months. In November 2015, she transferred into a similarly-titled position with the City of La Verne, where she stayed for nearly two years before being brought back to San Bernardino by Travis-Miller.
The post of city manager in California municipalities generally carries with it the hazard of an accelerated rate of turnover in that the constant changeover in city councils per the electoral process can result in a city manager hired under the direction of a controlling majority of a city council falling into disfavor with a succeeding city council. San Bernardino over the last 22 years has cycled through city managers at a rate slightly faster than California cities on average, with ten city managers in that time frame, counting Travis-Miller twice for her separate tours in the position and including LeDoux, starting with Shauna Clark, who served as the elected city clerk before being hired as city manager; Fred Wilson, who stepped into the city manager’s post after serving as San Bernardino’s assistant administrator for seven years and went on to become city manager in Huntington Beach after leaving San Bernardino, where he hired Ledoux as one of his assistants; Mark Weinberg, the city manager in Inglewood for more than three decades; Charles McNeely, who was the city manager in Reno, Nevada for 13 years before relocating to San Bernardino; Travis-Miller in her first go-round as the city’s top administrator, in an interim capacity; Allen Parker, who had been the municipal or city administrator or city manager in South El Monte, Compton, Seal Beach, Half Moon Bay, East Palo Alto, Oak Park, Illinois and Maywood, Illinois after working as an administrator with the City of Kanasas City, Missouri; Mark Scott, the one-time city manager of Beverly Hills, Culver City, Fresno and Burbank; and Travis-Miller in her most recent tenure.
The council and Ledoux are expected to meet in closed session on July 17 to discuss the yet-to-be-determined terms of Ledoux’s contract. The amount of money Ledoux will be willing to work for is of some moment in San Bernardino, as the city was forced to take refuge in Chapter 9 bankruptcy for nearly five years beginning in 2012 as a consequence of inflated salaries and benefits provided to city employees that left the city with a structural deficit, a $49 million budgetary shortfall and long term debt of over $400 million. In the four years and ten months between the time it entered into bankruptcy in August 2012 and its emergence in June 2017, the city stiffed a combination of some 209 creditors, vendors and partners for just over $350 million. Left largely unscathed by that devastation were the city’s employees, who continued to draw paychecks throughout the ordeal. They have seen no reductions in pay and their benefits remain intact, including the pensions they were promised by past mayors and city councils, though going forward the city’s employees are now being called upon to make a slight increase in their individual contributions toward their retirement benefits.
Two years after its official exit from bankruptcy, the city is yet beset with a lack of fiscal discipline, as expenditures in the soon-to-conclude 2018-19 fiscal year are on a trajectory to eclipse revenues in the same period by more than $11 million. If current trends continue, that deficit will zoom to over $16 million by the end of upcoming 2019-20. The prospect of the city falling back into bankruptcy is a real one. In that eventuality, given the city’s demonstrated inability to come to terms with its overindulged and overpaid staff in the past and the unlikelihood that the city’s public employee unions will make the concessions needed to bring the city’s expenditures into balance with its revenues, disincorporation of the 150-year-old city, the county’s oldest, is a looming possibility.
Consequently, Mayor John Valdivia and his team are casting about for a way to impose on the entirety of city staff what in at least some other contexts might be considered drastic pay reductions in the neighborhood of 25 percent across the board. Earlier this month, the council used its authority to have elected City Attorney Gary Saenz, who is also a full-time city employee, take 45.8 percent cut in his total annual compensation; elected City Clerk Gigi Hanna, who is also a full-time city employee, take a 59.2 percent cut in her total annual compensation; and City Treasurer David Kennedy, who is what is deemed a part-time city employee, take a 90 percent pay cut.
It is the current San Bernrdino political establishment’s hope going toward the July 17 meeting that Ledoux will be content with receiving two-thirds the total annual compensation provided to Travis Miller. Miller was provided with $307,941.56 in total compensation on a yearly basis, consisting of her $262,542.50 annual salary and $45,399.06 in annual benefits. Thus, it is surmised, the council will offer Ledoux $175,028.34 in annual salary, coupled with $30,770.61 in benefits. If Ledoux were to accept this level of compensation, it would leave her with the situational authority to ask the rest of the city’s work force to voluntarily take 25 percent pay cuts. If those employees do not comply with that request, Ledoux would then be armed with what the Valdivia team considers to be the “moral authority” to lay those employees off, and subsequently carry out a study to determine which of those positions can be permanently eliminated before doing so. Those remaining vacant positions deemed necessary for the continuation of municipal function and the provision of services would then be filled by contractual arrangements, by which young and qualified candidates, eager to obtain municipal experience or positions, would be hired at salaries or hourly rates at least 25 percent lower than is being provided to current city employees holding those positions.
Yet to be seen is whether Ledoux will be willing to carry out that assignment and whether she can accomplish it during the first 15 months of her 18 month contract, at which point four of the seven positions on the city council will be up for election in the November 2020 election.