More than a decade after he left city officials in the lurch there, Henry Garcia has returned, at least for an interim, as Rialto’s acting city manager.
Garcia has taken up the position six months after the abrupt departure of City Manager Marcus Fuller, who at no time during his 20-month stint as city manager established an even relationship with all five of the members of the city council, some of whom are known for their explosive temperament. By January, all sides acknowledged, managerial differences were too pronounced for him to remain, and he departed. Garcia relieves Assistant City Manager Arron Brown, who temporarily assumed the acting city manager from Fuller and has now returned to his original capacity as assistant city manager.
Garcia, who obtained a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of California, Riverside in 1979 and later obtained his master’s degree in political science from UCLA, applied his education by going into government work, finding positions of progressively greater responsibility with the cities of Fontana, Riverside and San Jacinto.
In 1991, he was hired as city manager in Azusa, where he remained for six years, at which point he jumped to Colton. Thereafter, in 2001, he opportunistically left for neighboring Rialto, remaining in that post for ten years. In 2011, he once again pulled up stakes to become the city manager of Moreno Valley, a post he remained in for three years, his stay being punctuated by another unexpected departure in 2014. That knelled his essential retirement, although he served, for a short period of time last year, as the interim city manager in Eastvale.Recurrent in Garcia’s municipal management career are precipitate departures in which the cities he served, which were generally involved with some order of adversity or scandal, were left in the lurch by his decision to move on.
Garcia’s early municipal experience was in large measure shaped by his first mentor, Fontana’s legendarily corrupt City Manager Jack Ratelle. Ratelle had a prodigious capacity for graft and an even more impressive ability to sidestep or bypass any accountability for action that in another context or circumstance would have sent its perpetrator to prison for decades. Inherent in Ratelle’s formula was his ability compromise his political masters. In one case, Ratelle was aware, the mayor was a “silent partner” in development deals that were taking place in the city. The mayor knew he could count upon Ratelle to keep that knowledge to himself. In another case, Ratelle arranged for a city job for a councilman’s inveterately unemployed son-in-law. When one city councilman’s welding business was going through a rough patch, Ratelle arranged for certain businesses in the city, which needed assistance with permits and certain applications at City Hall, to call upon the councilman’s company when they needed welding and metalwork. Another councilman, a teacher at one of the city’s junior high schools, got himself in trouble when he became sexually involved with some of the 12-year-old and 13-year-old girls in his classes. When Ratelle caught wind of that, he managed to pull the police department off the councilman, brokering a trade by which the councilman agreed to approve the city’s pending contracts with the bargaining units for the police department’s personnel, the chastened councilman was never charged and Ratelle owned him thereafter. Ratelle sewed up the votes of a city councilwoman by having a sexual relationship with her. Ratelle was equally or even more masterful at laundering bribes and kickbacks, both to himself and the other employees at City Hall who had to be “taken care of” for the intensive pay-to-play ethos that predominated in Fontana during his tenure, in which development interests were allowed to proceed with their projects or had the cost of the infrastructure required for those projects to proceed defrayed by the taxpayers in exchange for money. One such method was having the development interests cover the cost of his up-front real estate purchases. Another featured him setting up lines of credit at hotel-casinos in Las Vegas – in his case at the MGM Grand – and then having the developers/benefactors endow those lines of credit. Ratelle made a show of working the dice tables during frequent weekend getaways to Las Vegas, returning to Fontana the following money to regale city employees or others with tales of how much he had won, or occasionally lost, throwing bones. Under Ratelle, the practice of city officials, in particular city employees who might have a crucial say in land use decisions, having their spouses using maiden names or their children invest in real estate property that was located on the city’s then-largely undeveloped north end and which had been included in a city redevelopment project area, was perfected. When Ratelle wanted as little public scrutiny on a matter that needed to be ratified by official action or a vote of the council, he would make sure that the item was not included on the city council’s agenda. Then, on the day of the meeting, he would persuade the city clerk that there was an urgency for the matter to be placed on that evening’s agenda as an “emergency walk-on item.” By doing this at meetings where there was already a very full agenda, the issue would come up for discussion at a very late hour – well after 10 p.m. or 11 p.m. or even in the wee hours of the morning – when the item would be given a cursory introduction, a quick vote would be taken and virtually no one would know it had happened.
None of this was lost on Garcia.
By 1997, Garcia was out of favor with two members of the Azusa City Council and was engaged in a constant effort to maintain favor with the remaining three members, conscious that if one vote were to swing to the other side, he might be without a job. Simultaneously, 39 miles away, well across the Los Angeles/San Bernardino County divide, there had been turmoil over the fashion in which strongarm lobbying tactics and monetary inducements had been brought to bear to influence the awarding of the city’s trash franchise after a decision to privatize the city’s sanitation division had been made the previous year. The mayor that had spearheaded that effort, George Fulp, had been recalled in the November 1996 election partially as a result of the controversy. There was a subsequent inquiry into the manner in which the competitor, Burrtec, which had come out on top in the analysis as to which trash-hauling company could best serve the city, was not given the refuse handling contract. Rather, a company that had finished behind Burrtec in the competition, Taormina Industries, had outmaneuvered all the other companies that had applied for the franchise in terms of lobbying and generosity to the city’s elected officials, including Fulp, then-Councilman Don Sanders and Councilman Abe Beltran, who had been defeated in his bid for reelection in 1996, as well. At the behest of City Attorney Julie Biggs and Police Chief Bernie Lundsford, the city had retained former Riverside County Deputy Prosecutor Mark McDonald to look into the irregularities surrounding the awarding of the trash hauling franchise. The McDonald Report returned a finding suggesting that Fulp, Beltran and Sanders, in exchange for money provided to them by Taormina, had exerted pressure on City Manager Malik Freeman and Assistant City Manager Daryl Parrish to purposefully pervert the selection process in favor of Taormina. Freeman, actively, and Parrish, passively, the report held, acceded to that pressure.
The first casualty of the McDonald Report was Freeman, who was terminated by the council in an effort to stem the public outrage based upon the report’s narrative describing him as taking a direct role in carrying out Fulp’s, Beltran’s and Sanders’ bidding in vectoring the contract to Taormina. Parrish, whose transgressions in the matter were acts of omission rather than commission, was suspended but not terminated.
Since replacing Freeman with Parrish, at that point, was out of the question, the city carried out a recruitment effort to find a replacement city manager while the city contracted with Lenn Wood to act as Colton’s interim city manager.
Ultimately the city considered 49 applicants for the post, including Garcia, who endeavored to prevent anyone in Azusa from learning that he was under consideration for the Colton post. As the field narrowed and Garcia remained in the running, what could have been disaster for Garcia struck, as it was learned in Azusa that he was contemplating jumping ship. At that point, the three-member council majority in his favor in the city that then employed him was compromised and it was widely talked about in Azusa that Garcia’s days there were numbered, as a consensus to replace him was building, the only delay being settling upon his replacement.
Nevertheless, Garcia evinced the guts of a cat burglar, putting on a brave face in his interaction with Colton officials, maintaining that he was secure in his position in Azusa, knowing that rules of governmental secrecy and employee confidentiality would keep the officials in Colton from learning he was, essentially, a dead man walking in Azusa.
A strong selling point Garcia had in Colton was that he lived in neighboring Grand Terrace with his then-wife, LeeAnn. Engaging in hard-nosed bargaining at the end of his discussions with Colton officials before he accepted the job, Garcia ensured that he was given a raise over what he was making in Azusa.
At that time, Colton was a bit of an anomaly among San Bernardino County cities. Despite the consideration that at roughly 47,000 inhabitants it was then the 13th largest or 12th smallest of the county’s 24 cities, it had seven city council members, consisting of a mayor and six council district representatives. Only the City of San Bernardino, which had, and still has, a mayor and seven council members, had a larger city council. Needles, like Colton, had a seven-member council. All 21 other city councils consisted of five members.
A primary element of Garcia’s formula as city manager – one that has sustained him but which has also resulted in tremendous complication for both him and the cities where he has served – is his view of himself as an enabler of the city council, or to put it more precisely, an enabler of the council majority or a ruling coalition on the council, to the extent, of course, that there is a council majority or a ruling coalition that can be enabled.
Garcia had no sooner arrived in Colton than he learned that there was no semblance of a majority on the Colton City Council and the number of members it entailed created a multiplicity of factions – three, four or even five, depending on who was doing the counting – that made building a lasting consensus difficult and made things hazardous for the city manager who was in a position of securing not just three reliable votes to guarantee himself job security but four. The city’s mayor – Karl Gaytan, who achieved notoriety by coaching the Colton High football team and came into office as the top vote-getter when Fulp had been recalled – was constantly seeking a coalition, relying upon Councilman Sanders and Councilman James Grimsby and Councilwoman Betty Cook to vote with him on issues of what he considered importance. That coalition sometimes coalesced for him, but as often did not. At that time, Councilmembers Deirdre Bennett and Kelly Chastain had formed a firm friendship and seemingly unbreakable political bond, mimicking each other’s votes right down the line. Neither Bennett nor Chastain got along terribly well with Gaytan. Councilman John Hutton, who was also the city’s director of public works, was a wild card, moving into and out of alliance with Cook on issues and occasionally networking with Sanders and Grimsby to take the lead on a few specific issues on which he would usually prevail.
In November 1998, things did not get any less complicated for Garcia when Hutton unsuccessfully challenged Gaytan for the mayoralty and in losing gave up his position on the council representing the Second District. Hutton was replaced by Richard DeLaRosa, whose presence on the council made the existing alliances on the council no less opaque.
Garcia’s efforts to remain on the good side of at least four of the council members was complicated by the consideration that the enmity between Gaytan and Bennett meant that he could do virtually nothing to please either Bennett or Chastain, lest he offend Gaytan. Generally, he could cater to Sanders and Cook without getting crosswise of the mayor, but on those occasions where Gaytan found himself in a dispute with either of them on an issue or agenda item, Garcia would be absolutely bewildered. He endeavored to cultivate DeLaRosa as a supporter.
At times, Garcia’s effort to line up as many votes as he could took on comic or even a pathetic dimension, as when he found himself literally serving in the role of Grimsby’s chauffeur.
In 1999, the FBI, which was looking into major scale violations of the public trust by individuals in the county governmental structure in San Bernardino County began to quietly look into ways in which corruption among county officials had seeped into the county’s municipal establishment, as well. By 2000, a portion of the FBI’s focus had fallen on Colton. Agents initially kept the issues and targets in that investigation very close to the vest, instructing those interviewed to not disclose that those interviews had taken place or what the subject of inquiry was. With the investigation under way in earnest by late 2000 and early 2001, a gradually widening circle in Colton became aware that something was up, including Garcia, who learned that federal agents had begun close scrutiny of several sets of documents and records at City Hall. With word spreading among city insiders that Councilman Sanders was “wearing a wire,” that is, a hidden recording device on his person, and that he was, sometimes with subtlety and sometimes clumsily, seeking to inveigle his municipal colleagues into implicatory conversations, Garcia took a hard look at his options.
In neighboring Rialto, the city council there was making do with the services of Walt King as the acting city manager while a search was on to find someone to replace Joseph Guzetta, who had left Rialto to become the city manager in Desert Hot Springs.
Quietly, Garcia contacted Rialto officials, offering them his services, explaining how he could make a seamless transition from the 47,662-population 15-square mile Colton to 91,873-population 22.4-square mile Rialto virtually overnight.
Rialto took him up on the offer. Less than two months later, Gaytan, Sanders and Grimsby, along with former councilman Beltran and San Bernardino County Supervisor Jerry Eaves, billboard mogul William “Shep” McCook, real estate broker Allan Steward and Suncrest Homes general manager Michael Berg were indicted by a federal grand jury, based upon accusations that Eaves, Gaytan, Beltran, Sanders and Grimsby had taken bribes from McCook, Steward and Berg in exchange for supporting McCook’s construction and eventual sale of billboards on county flood-control property at the junction of the 10 and 215 freeways in Colton.
Gaytan, Sanders and Grimsby were convicted and removed from office.
Garcia remained in place in Rialto for ten years. During that decade, the city operated day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month and year-to-year, functioning, more or less, as a cohesive municipal unit, maintaining relative political stability under then Mayor Grace Vargas, who held that position when Garcia was hired in 2001 and was reelected in 2004 and 2008.
Among the four traditional principles of management – planning, organizing, directing and controlling – Garcia’s known weakness was with the first. When he came into the post of manager, Rialto at that point was approaching 90 years old, having been incorporated on November 17, 1911. An obvious issue was the city’s decaying infrastructure. Garcia, while accomplished in the bureaucratic methodologies of directing and controlling and adequate in the arena of organizing, was, if not incapable of carrying out adequate long-range planning, extremely reluctant to do so.
When he came to Rialto, the city was plagued with a barely adequate water system that was capable of servicing only about half of the city’s population and which was dilapidating in much of its aspect and literally crumbling in most of the rest. The city’s public works division was playing constant catch-up, repiping the most critically deficient sections of the system, but often merely linking one problematic span to another, with no overarching strategy of revamping the entire system in any sort of methodical way. That haphazard – and ultimately more costly – approach predominated throughout most of the decade that Garcia was in Rialto.
Roughly half of Rialto’s residents received, as they yet do, their water from the municipal water system. The other half are customers of West Valley Water District, which serves customers in Rialto as well as in portions of Fontana and Colton, all of Bloomington and a sliver of northern Riverside County. While it was recognized that the city needed to make a financial commitment to reconstruct the municipal water system comprehensively, the city council as it was then composed, advised and led by Garcia, did not have the stomach to bite the bullet and impose the rate increases or other revenue generating formulas that would allow that upgrading to take place. As city officials temporized, the water system degraded further.
At last, some eight years into his tenure as city manger, Garcia undertook to seriously look at what could be done with Rialto’s aging and decaying municipal water system. Ultimately, he came up with what he hoped might work. He courted the corporation American Water Works and its New Jersey-based affiliate, American Water Operations and Maintenance, Inc., and when corporate officers there showed some interest, began negotiations with them. They formulated an approach by which a division of American Water Works was to be formed, known as Rialto Water Services, which was to function as a local company and take over operation and maintenance of the water district. The city was to retain the district’s water rights, but the company was to further take on all aspects of water operations, maintenance and billing along with the city’s wastewater/sewer operations, effectively running both the water and sewer utilities for three decades.
The city’s water and wastewater division employees were to be allowed to transfer into the city’s engineering or public works divisions if they wished, remaining as city employees with their public pension plans intact or were to be allowed to go to work with American Water Works, which would have been required to guarantee those employees would remain employed for at least 18 months with salary and benefits equal to those offered by the city. That guarantee was to sunset after a year-and-a-half.
Garcia obtained a verbal commitment from American Water Works that it would make $45 million in upgrades to the water system and assume all debt owed by the city’s water utility division and fund all needed infrastructure improvements to the system. In return, city officials had lined up the city council’s agreement to allow American Water to significantly increase the water service and sewer service rates to be charged to customers. As those rate increases would come as a consequence of American Water’s takeover of the water system operations, the calculation was that the elected city officials to whom Garcia was answerable, would be spared the antipathy of Rialto residents at the dramatic increases in water rates they were to experience.
As city officials and American Water corporate officers sought and ever closer inched toward closing the deal, issues that yet needed to be resolved cropped up, keeping the contract and operational hand-off from being actuated.
Then, in January 2011, Garcia departed as Rialto city manager. Caught completely unprepared for Garcia’s departure, the city council turned first to Redevelopment Director Robb Steel to oversee the city but after a week conferred the acting city manager role on Police Chief Mark Kling, who remained in that capacity for six months. Kling, who knew nothing about the deal that was in the works with American Water and made no pretense of understanding the intricacies and the ins and outs of the terms and what their implications were either in the short or long term, shied away involving himself in making any commitments that would lock the city into a three-decade long arrangement he could not fully comprehend. During Kling’s run as city manager, no progress toward transferring the management of the city’s water system to American Water Works was made.
Garcia’s departure at that crucial juncture would have a legacy which is not commonly considered positive.
When Mike Story eventually came in as city manager in late summer 2012, he sought to aggressively address the city’s infrastructure and service needs, working, somewhat belatedly, along the lines had Garcia explored, recognizing the city did not have the financial wherewithal to undertake the water system upgrades on its own. He recommitted to making the deal with American Water. In March 2012, the city council approved by a 4-1 vote entering into the 30-year lease of the municipal water system with American Water Works Co. As part of that deal, the city agreed to a 114.8 percent increase in water and wastewater rates by 2016, such that the average water bill of Rialto households utilizing 17,000 gallons per month was to jump from the then-current rate of $26.27 per month to $64.14 monthly and increase the wastewater treatment fee from $25.97 to $61.46 as of January 1, 2016.
That move immediately provoked a response in the form of a petition drive by members of the Utility Workers of America, the union representing city water division employees, to force a city-wide referendum on the takeover. In less than seven weeks, over 6,400 signatures were gathered to meet the threshold of 3,800 valid signatures of registered voters needed to force the matter to a vote. The petitions created an opportunity for city residents to reject the takeover by means of a mail vote to be conducted by the city. If more than 50 percent of the ratepayers returned the mail-in ballots rejecting the takeover, it would not go into effect.
But in a crafty piece of sleight-of-hand, Rialto officials short-circuited that challenge when they quietly took action to find another company to manage Rialto’s water operations. With two swipes of a pen, the city of Rialto substituted American Water Works out of the picture and entered into a contract with San Francisco-based Table Rock Capitol to take on the role of water service operator.
Table Rock, doing business as Rialto Water Services LP, supplanted American Water Works Co. Inc. as the city’s water and wastewater service provider, and farmed out the operation to entities expert at water and sewer operations, one of those being the French Water Company Veolia,
Rialto received $30 million cash and $41 million in capital improvements in the deal but played down at the time was that Table Rock and other investors received a $26 million equity stake, and there was a commitment that the entirely of the arrangement was to be defrayed by the floating of $27.4 million in bonds, ultimately to be paid, at a 5.5 percent interest rate per year over 30 years, totaling $146 million, by Rialto’s residents, including those who do not get their water from the municipal water system but from the West Valley Water District. This is in addition to the 114.8 percent increase effectuated between 2012 and 2016 and any further rate increases since.
Garcia, however, had left all of that behind him, at least for the time, when he ditched Rialto to take on the position of city manager in Moreno Valley.
As he perhaps should have recognized, politics in the 196,577-population Riverside City was at least twice as complex, and shot through with on the order of five or six times the danger as was the case in 99,657-population Rialto. The danger was exacerbated by the primary feature of Garcia’s municipal management formula, which is that his central function as a city manager is to enable his political masters or at least those political masters who appear to be most in charge of the city they head.
Just as was the case in Colton in San Bernardino County, in Moreno Valley in Riverside County the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office had caught wind of what, at least as far as appearances went, seemed to be some highly questionable activity and use of local government authority and discretion.
The council that hired Garcia consisted of District 1 Councilman Jesse Molina; District 2 Councilman Richard Stewart, who was then the mayor; District 3 Councilwoman Robin Hastings; District 4 Councilman Marcelo Co; and District 5 Councilman William Batey.
Land development deals in which a degree of favoritism was being shown to certain entities, in particular ones who had an established reputation for throwing money around and generosity toward the politicians who favored them with their votes, had come to investigators’ attention, including ones with the Riverside District Attorney’s Office, the California Attorney General’s Office and the FBI.
Of some interest were Iddo Benzeevi, a notable developer and the president and CEO of Highland Fairview, as well as real estate broker Jerome “Jerry” Stephens. Still, getting traction in the investigation was difficult.
In November 2011, a businessman seeking to open a business at a specific site in Moreno Valley and looking for land in the city upon which to locate another business venture asked for Co’s assistance in dealing with the city on the former undertaking. Co told the businessman he could assist him and that he would use his influence as a council member to effectuate a zone change if the land the businessman obtained had zoning incompatible with the use the businessman intended for it. Co also told the businessman he would provide him with “inside information” available to him as a member of the city council relating to future zoning changes and development projects and that the businessman should keep it under his hat that the information was coming him.
Co told the businessman he had already succeeded in getting his “people” appointed to the planning commission and that if he could get his chosen candidates selected to the city council, he could get any project he wanted passed, saying he was seeking to control at least four of the five votes on the city council to guarantee the three-vote majority needed to pass any item on the agenda. Co also said that once in place, the four candidates working league could “rotate” their votes, with one of them entering a no vote on development items so that it would not appear that they were voting in lockstep with one another.
Co gave the businessman a primer on how he could make donations without that money being directly tied to him such as making the donations through the names of the businessman’s friends or family members, making loans to the candidates that would be forgiven or entrusting the money to Co so that Co could make the donations.
The businessman contacted the FBI and in January 2012, the businessman introduced Co to an FBI agent who was masquerading as a land broker looking to purchase property on behalf of foreign and domestic investors. Co told the undercover FBI agent that he could assist him in finding property in Moreno Valley and that if the land needed to be rezoned, Co could ensure it was rezoned. Co repeated the pitch he had made to the businessman, telling the undercover FBI agent that he needed assistance funding the campaigns of candidates he supported. He assured the undercover agent that he could get any project that would go before the Moreno Valley City Council approved once he had the candidates he supported elected and in place, that he intended to coordinate the rezoning of Moreno Valley with the candidates he was supporting and that he would inform the undercover agent of what changes were to be made and the timing involved. Co sought from the businessman and the undercover FBI agent $50,000 to $100,000 to achieve his elective objectives in the 2012 elections. At a meeting between Co, the businessman and the FBI agent on April 13, 2012, the undercover agent gave Co $10,000 in cash and Co pledged to support any project the undercover agent brought before the city council. Co said he would, and did, use $3,000 of the $10,000 provided to him to support someone he characterized as one of his candidates, Tom Owings running in Moreno Valley’s District 3, and $3,000 to support another of someone her referred to as one of his candidates, Victoria Baca running in District 5.
In the summer of 2012, Co met with the undercover agent and proposed selling him 30 acres, later appraised as worth $710,000 and which Co maintained was worth $3 million, to the undercover agent for $5,360,000. Upon the election of Owings and Baca, Co said, the 30 acres would be rezoned to any use the undercover agent specified. Co reemphasized the importance of getting Owings and Baca elected. The undercover agent provided him with another $5,000.
On November 6, 2012, both Owings and Baca were elected and Jesse Molina was reelected in District 1.
On December 4, 2012, Co met with the undercover agent, informing him that with Owings and Baca now in place on the city council, the troika, which he referred to as “Club 3-0” would be able to effectuate the repurposing of the 30 acres using a zoning overlay rather than a general plan amendment, which would allow the change to be made much more quickly. He offered the undercover agent a promise that once the agent purchased the property, he would make sure the land was rezoned as part of the overlay process. He then worked out an arrangement with the undercover agent that the undercover agent would pay $5.36 million of the land but that the recorded contract for the purchase would reflect only a $3 million sale, with the remaining $2.36 million being provided as cash on the side, allowing Co to avoid paying taxes on the $2.36 million. During a January 30, 2013 meeting, Co and the FBI agent agreed to the deal and having the agent draw up a fraudulent loan document showing the $2.36 million as a loan. The undercover agent then provided Co with $2.36 million in cash. The entire transaction was caught on video.
There was another factor in the investigation, although for laymen on the outside looking in, it is somewhat difficult to ascertain what role it played in the overall scheme of things. Councilman Richard Stewart, the longest serving member of the council with more than two decades on the panel who had been the mayor when Garcia was hired as city manager, had a glimpse or two or three or four of how those business entities active in the community with a substantial stake in the way City Hall conducted itself had a way of befriending and showing largesse toward his council colleagues. It is known, although details are sketchy, that he had been approached and that, if he had not been directly offered some tangible benefits in return for his votes, as much had been hinted at. He was not impervious to the indicators that the FBI was snooping around Moreno Valley and at some point, in either late 2012 or early 2013, he had begun a dialogue with the FBI.
In April 2013, FBI and IRS agents, armed with search warrants and backed by a crew of investigators with the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office,raided the homes of Molina, Owings, Co and Baca.
What many never knew and others suspected was out of the bag. Over the next week, the buzz and volume of background noise and whispers in and around Moreno Valley intensified to a roar. It was not missed by anyone that Garcia’s formula for ingratiating himself with the city councils he served included enabling those elected officials to take actions that were not popular with or entirely appreciated by those officials’ constituents in such a way that the council members, either collectively or individually, could avoid be held accountable or blamed. At that point, the sordid details of everything that Co had been up to were not squarely before the public, but just enough was known that virtually anyone connected to City Hall had suffered a black eye. Just as the accusations and counteraccusations had reached a crescendo and the questions were crystalizing as to just how much city staff had been enabling a crooked cabal of politicians in carrying out their depredations, in the middle of the Moreno Valley City Council meeting on May 14, 2013, in front of man, God and everyone else, having realized that he no longer had to expose himself in public as some sort of spectacle to be gawked at and speculated about, Garcia did what he had done on so many occasions previously. He precipitously and without warning resigned as city manager on the spot.
For Garcia it was no big thing. At that point he had 32-and-two-thirds years as a public employee. He was entitled to a comfortable pension. He took it.
Over the years, Garcia had applied for multiple city manager positions throughout the Inland Empire while he was employed elsewhere. A former city council member with a city on the west end of the county who had interviewed Garcia during that city’s recruitment drive for a replacement city manager recalled the way in which Garcia attempted to impress the council. “He talked about the need for revenue and how the voters weren’t going to pass any new taxes, so we could sell off our utility assets, meaning out water, use that money toward our pension debt and that when the company that took over the water utility raised rates, we wouldn’t get blamed for it. He was all about making it so that as public officials we could bypass accountability. That was the goal. That’s what he brought to the table.”
In retirement, he offers his services as a consultant, his website says, “to cities and organizations in areas of consensus building, strategic planning and goal setting, executive coaching and leadership development; team building and conflict resolution; economic development and management problem solving. He is especially valuable to cities, Garcia says, in assisting with “the city manager and city council evaluation process.”
Rialto Councilman Ed Scott told the Sentinel he has no concern about Garcia’s pattern of abrupt departures from the cities he has led in the past, pointing out that “He stayed ten years before he left the last time he was here. He did not leave on bad terms with Rialto. He’s only an interim manager, we figure probably until December. We felt we needed someone who is a little more seasoned to make sure we’re on target with our budget and other issues. We are already looking toward getting a new city manager. I myself have been happy with the job Arron [Brown] has been doing, but it it a little too much work for him to do without an assistant and that we need to have two people on board. So, now we have Henry as the interim city manager and he has gone back to being the assistant city manager. If he wants to apply for the city manager position, he can. We felt he should not be in the interim position while we’re recruiting, if he is going to be a candidate, for the sake of transparency.”
Scott said that in having gotten Garcia, “I feel we were fortunate to get him. It is hard to find interim people.”