The situation involving San Bernardino’s city manager and its police chief has complexified.
Teri Ledoux earlier this year made a mercurial rise to the top of the municipal management profession through an unforeseen series of events when a divided city council in April put former City Manager Andrea Travis-Miller on paid leave and then terminated her in May. Ledoux, who had previously worked in the capacities of an administrative analyst and assistant to the city manager in San Bernardino from 1995 until 2013 before she went on to administrative assistant positions with the cities of Huntington Beach and La Verne, was brought back to San Bernardino by Travis-Miller to serve as assistant city manager in 2017.
Few expected Ledoux’s promotion to the post of interim city manager in San Bernardino to be anything more than a temporary assignment, based on a number of factors. One of those was Ledoux’s relatively thin managerial experience. The second was her proximity to retirement. She was 61 when she was brought in as interim city manager. Her known intention was to retire at 63, leaving little prospect that she would remain in the city manager’s post for more than two years. Thus, Ledoux’s skill level and staying power appeared inadequate to the task of dealing with San Beranrdino’s myriad of challenges. The city in August of 2012 had filed for Chapter Nine bankruptcy protection, remaining in that status for just under five years, during which time it stiffed 209 creditors for more than $300 million owed them. In June 2017, the city exited bankruptcy but in the interim has failed to abide by all elements in its recovery plan. Prior to Travis-Miller’s ouster, the city’s finance director, Brent Mason, departed. Based upon a financial review of the city’s current revenue and spending trends, the budget surplus the city was able to accumulate while functioning under Chapter 9 protection will be exhausted by October or November 2020.
In July, however, the city council, again on a sharply divided vote, moved to elevate Ledoux to the status of full-fledged city manager. In doing so, the council approved a contract with Ledoux that initially provided her with an annual salary of $259,674 and benefits running to roughly $46,000 per year, retroactive to June. That was equal to 99 percent of the $262,542.50 annual salary plus $45,399.06 in annual benefits that was being paid to Travis-Miller at the time of her departure. On August 1, when McBride’s pay as acting police chief was upped by 3.5 percent to $255,324.46, the city simultaneously increased Ledoux’s remuneration by the same 3.5 percent, zooming her salary to $268,762.59. such that she remained five percent ahead of McBride.
Layered into Ledoux’s contract was language that assured she would receive a salary that was higher than all of the municipal employees she supervised, spelled out in practical terms to guarantee she would make 5 percent more than the police chief, the city’s highest-paid department head.
As circumstances dictated, in 2019 there was an exodus of the city’s highest ranking employees, including Travis-Miller’s forced departure, that of Mason as well as Police Chief Jarrod Burguan.
Ultimately, indeed perhaps predictably, the city turned to Assistant Police Chief Eric McBride, who had been serving in the capacity of acting chief since February when Burguan had gone out on what was then anticipated to be a three-to-four month medical leave to undergo knee surgery. After that leave extended to more than six months, Burguan in August elected to retire.
McBride, whose résumé is bristling with experience and accomplishment, was considered the logical inheritor of the police chief’s position.
Rather than attend college out of high school, McBride enlisted in the Marine Corps at the age of 18, spending six-and-a-half years in the military, mostly as an anti-tank assault guided missileman in the infantry. He began with the San Bernardino Police Department as a patrol officer in 1991, with assignments as a member of the special weapons and assault team and as a field training officer. In 2002, he promoted to detective, working in the department’s narcotics division. He advanced to sergeant in 2004, in which rank he worked as a patrol supervisor, as a special weapons and assault team leader, and in internal affairs. He achieved the rank of lieutenant in 2011, overseeing the special events, emergency operations, records and dispatch divisions. He spent a mere five months as captain in 2014, at which point he was appointed assistant chief of police.
Along the way, McBride obtained a bachelor of science degree in political science from California Baptist University and a master of science degree in criminal justice from Troy University, augmented by a certificate in emergency management from Auburn University, as well as certification from the FBI National Academy and certification in executive leadership from the Naval Postgraduate School. He also graduated from the Police Officers and Standards Training Command College in its 56th class.
In addition, as a resident of the City of Hemet, McBride served a short time on that city’s planning commission in 2006, and later that year was elected to the Hemet City Council, subsequently serving a stint as mayor. While he was in his elected capacity with Hemet, McBride was appointed as a voting member of the Riverside Transit Agency as well as a member and later vice-chairman of the California League of Cities Public Safety Policy Committee.
In 2015, the City of El Monte hired McBride as its police chief, but after criticism regarding his participation in what was deemed aggressive anti-illegal immigration policies in Hemet, McBride opted not to take the job in that city in which roughly 69 percent, or 79,754 of its 115,586 population self-identifies as Latino.
For several reasons, McBride was heavily prized, not just for his advanced status within the San Bernardino Police Department but because the blend of his experience and education put him on a par with and conversant with issues that go into the complicated assignment of governing a municipal entity.
When the decision was made to promote Burguan as chief in 2013 upon former Police Chief Robert Handy’s departure, there were those who had advocated that McBride be given command of the department. After having filled in for Burguan in the interim capacity, McBride initially upon Burguan’s retirement was amenable to a salary of $255,324.46, augmented by $51,750 in benefits, for a total compensation package of $307,074.46.
At the age of 52, McBride is eligible to retire at any point and begin drawing a pension that is equal to 2.5 percent of his annual salary times the number of years he has been with the department, 28. Thus, McBride can at any point he chooses walk off into a comfortable retirement without the stress of running a police department functioning within what is statistically considered the 13th most dangerous city in the United States in terms of the frequency of violent crimes committed per 100,000 population. So, while McBride signaled he was willing to remain in place until he reaches the age of 55 or perhaps even 57, he wants the city to confer upon him a $10,000 raise retroactive to his assuming the police chief’s duties, and offer hims a $5,000 raise annually thereafter, in addition to the 3.5 percent raise currently granted to the police chief every August 1.
Ledoux agreed to inform the city council that if the council did not agree to the $265,324.46 annual salary figure McBride is seeking, he would retire. In doing so, Ledoux stood to gain as well, since the clause in her contract guaranteeing that she receive a salary that is at least five percent greater than any of her subordinates would be triggered if McBride’s remuneration is moved upward.
Reportedly, the city council, which is generally favorably disposed toward McBride, balked at immediately complying with his $10,000 salary enhancement request. That reluctance to grant him the raise was not based, the Sentinel is informed, because the council begrudges McBride what he feels he deserves. Rather, it has now set in on the council that the contractual arrangement it entered into with Ledoux has put the city at a disadvantage because granting McBride a salary enhancement will push Ledoux’s salary higher as well.
Ledoux’s performance over the last four months has proven inadequate on a number of fronts, members of the council now concede, and promoting her to the city manager’s post is regarded as a mistake.
From Ledoux’s perspective, remaining in place as city manager, preferably until her planned departure in January 31/February 1, 2021 or at least until the first week of August 2020 is imperative, as she must remain within her advanced salary bracket at least one full year to qualify for the enhanced pension she now believes she has an entitlement to.
The formula for calculating public pensions consists of three numbers: The highest salary achieved by the public employee for a sustained 12-month period; the number of years employed as a public employee; and the multiplicand percentage. The multiplicand for public employees generally is 2 percent. For some employees, such as some of those who delay their retirement date to 65 or beyond, some management echelon employees, and some public safety employees such as police officers or firefighters, their multiplicand can be higher – 2.25 percent, 2.5 percent, 2.75 percent or 3 percent – if the union or collective bargaining unit representing them has concluded a contract to that effect.
As a management employee, Ledoux has been provided with a multiplicand of 2.5 percent, such that she will be entitled to an annual pension of $174,695.68 [$268,762.59 X 26 (years) X 2.5 percent] if she remains in the position of city manager until January 2021. If she departs at any time prior to July 2020, her pension formula will revert to one using her salary as assistant city manager, $191,763.51, and either 24 years or 25 years as a public employee rather than 26 years, reducing her annual pension to either $115,058.10 or $119,852.19.
While the city council wants to hang on to McBride as police chief, it would prefer to not have to do so by increasing the salary and potential pension benefit to a city manager who is considered to be both inadequate to the task given her and who who holds out little or no prospect of cultivating the requisite skill to be able to carry out her assignments in the near or extended future and who, in any case, does not offer the prospect of longterm continuity in the position were she to master her duties, as she is scheduled to remain no longer than February 2021. In the last month-and-a-half, Ledoux has come to recognize that her continued tenure as city manager is in danger. One assignment given her was to compile a list of candidates to succeed her as city manager. Knowing that once the council has at its disposal multiple options for her replacement, her fear is that the council will promptly dispense with her services and bring in her replacement, dashing her hopes of qualifying for the $174,695.68 per year pension she has now set her sights on. She has thus been dragging her feet with regard to enlisting interested qualified applicants for the city manager’s job.
Ledoux has further militated to refocus the city council’s attention away from the issue of McBride’s pay increase request, believing that if the council confronts the issue and elects to meet his demand, before doing so it will come to a collective decision to remove her as city manager and purge from the contract of her successor the language pertaining to guaranteeing the city manager pay greater than that provided to the police chief.
A City Hall insider told the Sentinel that “Teri is looking around for reason to not give Chief McBride the 10 percent increase he is asking for and all his other requests.”
Additionally the Sentinel was told, “Some staff members as well as some council members have been shaming the city manager to not take the10 percentage raise she is entitled to get in her contract when Eric McBride takes the police chief position. There is growing pushback on Teri’s claims that taking this short term position was never about the money, and that it was because ‘she cares.’ Well, now some want to have her prove it.”
Moreover, the Sentinel was told, “It is very likely that she will only remain until June when she has her full highest year in, rather than December of 2020. And because she has stalled the recruitment process for a permanent city manager, the city will be in a position with no one to easily take over. It takes about five or six months to conduct a recruitment and bring someone new on at this executive level. This is entirely contrary to what was said when she started, that she wanted to be the bridge until a new permanent city manager could be found. It is almost as if she wants to leave the city in a bind.”
There are further questions as to Ledoux’s commitment to the City of San Bernardino, even while she is in the capacity of city manager. Previously, the city required its city managers to live within the city. The city dispensed with that requirement when Mark Scott was city manager, though city leaders have continued to maintain that having a city manager who holds a personal stake in the city in terms of residence and who is also immediately available to address exigencies is desirable.
“There is also pushback from a number of people about her constant claim to having roots in the city,” the City Hall insider said of Ledoux. “She rents in Redlands. She could just as easily rent in San Bernardino. It is not as though she is tied to home ownership. She hasn’t lived in the city in over two decades. She can live wherever she wants. No one wants to make her move, but she keeps dragging out the ‘roots’ story.”
At the October 16 San Bernardino City Council meeting, the Sentinel asked Ledoux if she would be willing to cure the issue revolving around the potential of McBride’s departure as police chief by agreeing to waive that part of her contract requiring that her pay grade stand at a level 5 percent higher than the police chief. She responded, “I wouldn’t discuss that with you. I will discuss it with the elected body.[i.e., the city council].”
The situation involving San Bernardino’s city manager and its police chief has complexified.