Did the Tustin City Council Violate the Brown Act in Firing City Manager?

The agenda for last night’s Tustin Council meeting had a closed session meeting item labeled “performance evaluation of the city manager.” But no such performance evaluation occured.  City Manager David Biggs was instead served with a notice of Intent to Terminate, about four and half months after starting the job.  Did Jerry Amante and the Tustin Council majority violate the Brown Act on this matter?

According to Lisa Woolery, a spokeswoman for the city of Tustin, Biggs was suspended after last night’s meeting and the termination clause in his contract would give him a 9 months severance, meaning Tustin taxpayers are on the hook for about $187,500 in salary alone.  We reached Biggs and he has declined comment for now.

The stated reason is the relationship between the city council and the city manager was “not satisfactory.”

We called Deborah Gavello, a frequent subject of Mayor Amante’s ire, and she believes this is a firing without cause.

“Biggs is a consummate professional who returns phone calls and emails promptly and provides detailed explanations to my questions,” said Gavello.  “David was an effective city manager in my experience.  I think it’s an outrageous decision.”

Per Biggs contract, he is entitled to nine months of severance which works out to $187,500 for not working for Tustin taxpayers. Plus benefits.

Tustin spokeswoman Woolery said, “Biggs works for the city council, not the taxpayers.”  She amended her statement shortly after that after realizing what she said, but her comment provides an insight into Amante’s hold on Tustin politics. Biggs was supposed to do Amante’s bidding; he didn’t and this is what led to the “unsatisfactory relationship” between Biggs and 60 percent of the council. We’re told Biggs asked council members to meet with him in January to align priorities.  Amante and his Republican co-horts didn’t bother to schedule an appointment.

Biggs in entitled to a hearing before the City Council and residents should show up in force.  Those who attended the Tustin City Council meeting noted the presence of a Republican hack who doesn’t normally attend city council meetings at last night’s meeting.  So does Amante already have a Biggs’ replacement in mind? 

Woolery sent over a copy of Tustin’s policy for reviewing the city manager’s job performance. We post her comment here for your review and comment:

“I spoke with our City Attorney and ‘Performance Evaluation’ was the correct way to post per the Brown Act. The Intent to Terminate was a result of the performance evaluation. 

There are no written policies on the evaluation of the city manager. Traditionally the council discusses the evaluation and the Mayor and Pro Tem then present the evaluation to the city manager and then bring back the discussion to the council as a whole. This is done on an as needed basis.

In this case the Mayor decided to conduct the evaluation with the council as a whole, which is not outside of any written policy.

As for your question about evaluating the city manager in public, the city manager is, under the Brown Act, entitled to privacy when discussing his evaluation. However, per the Brown Act, as is followed in the City of Tustin, if the city manager’s compensation is changed, that is reported in public.”

Republicans are always keen on “running government like a business.”  What we have here is a council divided on the performance of a city manager on the job less than 5 months; perhaps communication between members of the council and the city manager to allow him to make appropriate adjustments would be a more business-like approach.  Cutting and running from a big contract and a candidate hired on a 5-0 vote in October isn’t smart business. 

Perhaps Mr. Amante should start working on what he really wants — changing the city’s charter to give him the power to run Tustin the way he wants to — like a dictator. dictator-chic_AMANTE (click through on the link)

  4 comments for “Did the Tustin City Council Violate the Brown Act in Firing City Manager?

  1. linda jennings
    March 2, 2011 at 5:43 pm

    Check out David Biggs attendance at a League of Cities event-an organization that Amante pulled Tustin out of to join with the very conservative OC group of cities. And speaking of tax dollars spent, check out how much our Moammor Amante spent on trying to reverse a Planning Commission decision last night at the council meeting. He had staff spend hours and hours to get back at a resident of the Tustin historic district. He wanted to change the zoning of the district to punish some of the residents who opposed him. He lost the vote 4 to 1 after a manic tirade that went on until midnight.

  2. kepdapeace
    March 2, 2011 at 7:28 pm

    Woolery’s original statement is an example of how the republican dominated council in Tustin feels about the citizens of Tustin. Never mind if the city manager is competent and concerned for the city, if he or she does not stand in lockstep with “Boss Tweed” Amante, then they are out. This city will be much better off when Amante finds some other toy to play with and leaves the “service” of the city.

  3. He's Like Walker
    March 2, 2011 at 7:47 pm

    Jerry Amante is like Governor Walker. Domineering with no hint of compromise. Rude to the opposition and arrogant. He claims to be a fiscal conservative but blows $193 k for spite. OC Gop’s best and brightest?

  4. for a better tustin
    March 3, 2011 at 5:57 am

    That GOP hack who was at the last city council meeting is the same person who was the mastermind of the infamous security guard scandle a few years ago— uniformed guards were posted at polling sites to intimidate Latino voters- the “hack” was found guilty (belive they were FELONY charges) and was banned from every holding an elected office. To even consider tis person for a city manager postion ( he has never held a city postion before) would be a disgrace—

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