Salinas City Manager, To Whom SB Extended Job Offer As Top Administrator, Withdraws Application

Salinas City Manager Steve Carrigan, who was chosen by the five-member majority of the San Bernardino’s eight elected leaders to serve as the county seat’s next city manager in August and had signaled his acceptance of that job offer, unilaterally withdrew his application for the position yesterday.
“Earlier this morning, I contacted the recruiter and removed my name from consideration for the position of San Bernardino City Manager,” Carrigan wrote in a memo to the Salinas municipal staff on September 28. “Over the past few weeks I have had time to think about what’s important to me from a personal and a professional standpoint and I have decided that Salinas is the best place for me.”
Since December 2022, when former San Bernardino City Manager Robert Field recognized that his remaining in that position was no longer tenable following the election of Helen Tran as mayor the previous month and tendered his resignation, the city has been seeking a replacement. In January, former San Bernardino City Manager Charles McNeely, who held the post from 2009 until 2012, agreed to guide the city in an interim capacity until a replacement manager is found. McNeely, who is retired, under the rules of the California Public Employees Retirement System is permitted to work for a public agency in California no more than 960 hours per fiscal year running July 1 through June 30. He has been on the job, full time continuously for practically nine full months at this point. Since the onset of the 2023-24 Fiscal Year on July 1, he has worked roughly 520 hours, such that he is on a pace to be forced to leave as San Bernardino’s city manager on or about December 15.
As of August 23, Tran and council member Ted Sanchez, Sandra Ibarra, Juan Figueroa and Fred Shorett had reached a consensus that Carrigan, who previously worked as the economic development director in Stockton for eight years, the assistant city manager of 25,000-population Sanger in Fresno County, the city manager of 37,000-population Los Banos in Merced County for two years and the city manager with 84,000-population Merced for five years before taking on the position of city manager in Salinas in 2021, was the best available candidate among 68 who had applied for the job. Though Councilman Damon Alexander was favorably impressed by Carrigan, he sided with Councilman Ben Reynoso and Councilwoman Kimberly Calvin who felt the city should continue its consideration of several of the other candidates who had also applied beyond the five of the 68 applicants who had been interviewed by the council and perhaps widen its selection process to others. The council, nevertheless, scheduled a specially-called meeting for August 28, at which the matter of a “public employee appointment” for the position of “city manager” was scheduled. Though it was anticipated Carrigan would be hired at that time, the meeting concluded with no such appointment.
At the San Bernardino City Council’s September 6 meeting, it was disclosed that the council had directed City Attorney Sonia Carvalho to make a formal offer of employment to the council’s voted-upon choice as city manager. The manner in which Carvalho made the announcement strongly implied there were grounds to believe the offer contained terms already deemed favorable by the applicant and that the offer was to be accepted upon the city council considering and approving the contract at its October 4 meeting. Carvalho, nevertheless, stopped short of identifying the applicant. Based upon information available to it, however, the Sentinel, in its September 8 edition, identified Carrigan as the council’s choice to serve as city manager.
Indeed, after the Sentinel had reported in its August 25 edition that the five-eighths majority of San Bernardino’s mayor and council had settled upon Carrigan as their choice to serve as the city’s next top administrator, Carrigan the following day, in a rare weekend email to Salinas’s department heads gave them a heads up that he was likely to be departing as their boss, given that, he said, “I am a finalist for the city manager job with the City of San Bernardino.”
The following Monday, August 28, Carrigan made a wider disclosure to all of the employees at Salinas City Hall that he was on the verge of departing as their boss.
Now comes word that the narrowing of the original field of 68 to five and the gravitation toward selecting Carrigan has been for naught.
Carrigan was lured to San Bernardino largely on the basis of it standing higher on the common standard of gradation of prestige among municipalities, a simple reduction as to size population- wise. Salinas has a current population of 161, 565, making it the 33rd largest city in California and the 160th largest city in the United States. San Bernardino, with 220,328 residents, is the 17th largest city in California and 102nd largest city in the United States.
While Salinas is providing Carrigan with $250,830.75 in yearly salary, something like 16,158 in perquisites and pay add-ons, $54,425 in benefits and a $34,485.63 yearly contribution to his pension fund for a total annual compensation of $355,899.38, San Bernardino was prepared to up his annual salary by $40,000 while maintaining his benefits and perks at the same level of what he is receiving now, thus providing him with an annual total compensation of roughly $396,000.
Sheer numbers, however, were unable to keep Carrigan on a trajectory to land in San Bernardino.
One element of the allure the county seat of Monterey County had for Carrigan is his accomplishments there so far. Another is the challenge lying ahead. “In Salinas, we’ve made a lot of progress on major issues like homelessness, affordable housing, crime and infrastructure and I want to be here to continue that momentum,” he wrote in yesterday’s memo. “I cannot see myself working anywhere else.”
Perhaps more persuasive was the relationship he has become caught up in with Salinas City Elementary School Superintendent Rebeca Andrade. In his email to staff yesterday, Carrigan, without mentioning Andrade by name, wrote, “I have met someone in Salinas that I’m crazy about.”
The mayor and members of the city council in San Bernardino, who up until yesterday were set on hiring Carrigan next Wednesday, were caught flat-footed by Carrigan’s decision. Several had not been informed about his withdrawal at the close of the business day on Thursday.
Hastily, the city clerk’s office, which had prepared the October 4 city council meeting agenda that included an item relating to Carrigan’s hiring augmented with a staff report recommending the acceptance of an attached employment agreement, had to withdraw that document for redrafting before posting it on the city’s website today, September 29. The item relating to Carrigan’s employment with the city was deleted, and the numerated items that followed it on the agenda altered, with each given an identifying number one less than what had already been assigned to them. In addition to altering the agenda, the city mounted an announcement stating, “The City of San Bernardino was notified that due to personal and professional reasons, the city manager candidate to whom the City Council made an offer has decided to remain with his current employer.  While it is rare for a candidate to withdraw from consideration after an announcement is made, it is always a possibility.”
The posting continued, “The mayor and city council will be determining its next steps in closed session on Wednesday, October 4 and remains confident that it will attract and hire the right person to manage the city. In the meantime, Charles McNeely will remain as interim city manager.”
Reportedly, Carrigan was not the mayor and city council’s absolute first choice as the ideal candidate among those who had applied for city manager. Another applicant was, the Sentinel was told, considered by the mayor and six of the seven council members to be the best person for the position. However, according to one well-placed source, that individual, who is currently employed by another city, withdrew from the sweepstakes to become San Bernardino city manager when someone from San Bernardino approached a member of the city council of the city where the applicant is employed. At that point, not certain of whether San Bernardino would extend a job offer and not wanting to risk losing the applicant’s current job over an ultimately empty job prospect, the candidate withdrew.
One of the other three finalists for the position could yet be offered the post. It is also possible, as had been Reynoso’s and Calvin’s earlier preference, that more applicants be sought and a wider range of interviews conducted before a final choice is made and employment offer extended. One constraint, however, is that the city would prefer to fill the vacancy before McNeely must depart from his position as interim city manager in mid-December.

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