A Month After Yucaipa Installs A New Council, City Manager Out On A 3-to-2 Vote

Amid a degree of confusion as to along what lines the still-forming factions on the Yucaipa City Council divide, City Manager Ray Casey, who had served as city manager of the 54,542-population city since he was elevated from the city engineer’s position in 2008, tendered his resignation Monday.
Casey’s departure comes a month after Matt Garner and Chris Venable were installed as council members and a month after they were elected in a contest in which the then-longest serving members of the council, David Avila and Greg Bogh, had opted out of seeking reelection.
Any interpreting of what the impetus for Casey’s departure was is likely to be problematic, as the common policy of confidentiality that attends issues relating to public agency personnel issues prevents the emergence of a clear picture of what went into the sudden change in senior staff at Yucaipa City Hall. It is complicated by the application of what appears to be a cover story intended to protect Casey, a narrative which propounds that he voluntarily retired. Known details about the circumstance, however, contradict that.
In October, Avila, Bogh, Councilman Bobby Duncan, Councilman Justin Beaver and Councilman Jon Thorp unanimously voted to extend Casey’s contract at least until June 30, 2024 and provide him with a 3 percent salary increase that would jump his salary to $299,420, such that he would be making $422,901.50 in total annual compensation, putting him among the 25 highest-paid city managers in California.
On Monday night, however, the city council in a divided 3-to-2 vote, accepted his resignation. Thorp and Venable dissented in that vote, while Beaver, Duncan and Garner accepted it.
Algebraic deduction based upon the general circumstance, the October vote, what occurred Monday night and hurried statements made Monday night by Beaver, who is now serving in the capacity of mayor, and Duncan followed by a press release assembled by Shane Massoud, the city’s public information officer, on Tuesday morning indicate that Casey’s performance was deemed satisfactory by Avila, Bogh and Thorp, who in October acted to give Casey a modicum of job security by extending his contract. A logical inference is that Avila, Bogh and Thorp knew both Beaver and Duncan were not as sanguine about Casey as they were, and they recognized that with Avila and Bogh’s then-pending departures, Casey’s termination might be in the offing. It would thus appear that Garner was persuaded that Casey’s departure at this point is in the best interest of the Yucaipa community.
Several Yucaipa residents sought Monday night to dissuade Beaver, Duncan and Garner from what they were intent on doing, to no avail. Those included former Planning Commissioner Denise Work, Kathy Sellers, Cecelia Johns, Robin Miskin, Kevin Miskin, George Sardeson and former Yucaipa City Councilman Dick Riddell.
After Casey was deposed on a 3-to-2 vote, the council voted 5-to-2 to sack City Attorney David Snow. Those votes took place during a closed session.
Assistant City Manager Jennifer Crawford is to fill in for Casey on an interim basis. Casey and Snow are ultimately to be replaced, respectively, by Chris Mann and Steven Graham, who are the city manager and city attorney with the municipality of Canyon Lake.
Monday night, Beaver and Duncan put out a press release in which they justified the action the council majority took and beamed about the talents of Mann and Graham.
“Following an election this past November in which the voters of Yucaipa elected two new members to the city council, the council is taking decisive action to move Yucaipa forward,” Beaver stated. “The council’s first step involved making changes to the city’s executive leadership team.”
Beaver said Mann, the president of the Yucaipa Valley Water District, “has the right relationships to help our city work collaboratively throughout the region for the benefit of Yucaipa residents.”
“This is a big win for our city,” stated Councilman Duncan in the press release. “We need new eyes on this city to effectively tackle recent budget challenges, organizational issues, and to aggressively address rising crime and homelessness. We were able to bring on a proven leader who is already invested in our community because he lives right here in Yucaipa, saving the city tens of thousands of dollars a nation-wide search would have cost local taxpayers. What’s more, we found someone who will take a business-minded approach to the job of running the day-to-day operations of our city, yet someone who also has an abundance of local government experience.”
In a follow-up press release the next day, Beaver was quoted as saying, “We truly appreciate and recognize the significant contributions of Mr. Casey during his service to Yucaipa. Over the past almost 20 years, Ray worked with a number of city councils to make tremendous progress toward evolving our community, continually improving quality of life for our residents while enhancing public safety.”
-Mark Gutglueck

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