What a difference 5 months makes

 

I’m still trying to weigh Tustin Mayor Jerry Amante’s comments on soon-to-be-displaced Tustin City Manager David Biggs hire last fall with his actions at Tuesday night’s council meeting when Amante used his 3-2 margin to opt to terminate someone who by all accounts was exceptional for the job. 

Here’s the press release announcing Biggs’ hire:

Tustin Selects David C. Biggs as New City Manager  

Following an extensive nationwide recruitment, the Tustin City Council has unanimously selected David C. Biggs to serve as its City Manager. Mr. Biggs was selected from a pool of 55 impressive candidates to succeed Bill Huston who has fulfilled the role of City Manager for the last three decades.

Mr. Biggs will leave his Assistant City Manager position, which he has held for the past five years in the City of Redondo Beach, to begin his new role in Tustin on October 18, 2010. His Orange County roots run deep. Prior to his tenure in Redondo Beach, he was Director of Economic Development & Deputy Executive Director of the Redevelopment Agency in Huntington Beach. He has also served as City Manager and Director of Economic Development and Housing for the City of Morgan Hill, California. Mr. Biggs began his career in the City of Santa Ana. He holds a Master of Business and Public Administration from the University of California at Irvine and a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from California State University, Fullerton.

The City Council completed their three-month selection process with the candidate field being narrowed down to just three candidates in early September and Mr. Biggs emerging as the clear frontrunner last week.

“Despite the quality of the candidates we had to select from, it was abundantly clear to the entire Council that David was the best choice for our organization and the community” said Mayor Jerry Amante. “In addition to his outstanding economic and community development experience, he has tremendous depth in all aspects of city government. We are delighted that David will be joining us in a few weeks and look forward to benefiting from his talent for many years to come.”

Mr. Biggs is planning on relocating to Tustin in the near future with his wife, Catherine, and their two sons, Adrian and Dylan. He stated, “I am honored to be selected to serve the City of Tustin and look forward to becoming part of the community.”

So what happened.  Did Biggs actually tell Amante he couldn’t do some of the things Amante wanted to do? 

Here’s some interesting items in the employment agreement for the city manager signed by Biggs and Amante:

It looks like Tustin also budgeted about $20,000 for relocation expenses.  But we’re chekcing into how much was actually spent to relocate Biggs from Redondo Beach.

CityManagerAgreement09212010

From the contract itself, these details (cutting and pasting wasn’t easy, the actual contract is above):

“The Mayor and City Council in closed session shall review and evaluate the performance of the City Manager at least once each year during the term of this Agreement. The review and evaluation shall be completed in accordance with specific criteria developed jointly by the Mayor and City Council and the City Manager. Such review shall include a written statement of the findings provided to the City Manager and the adequate opportunity for the City Manager to discuss this evaluation with the Mayor and City Council Failure of the Mayor and City Council to review and evaluate the performance of the City Manager pursuant to this section shall not affect the right of the City to terminate the City Manager employment. Upon completion of each such review and evaluation process the Mayor and Council shall determine the amount if any of a merit salary adjustment and cost of living adjustment COLA to be provided. 

Consistent with Tustin City Code Section 1411 Employee is appointed by and serves at the pleasure of the City Council. Nothing in this Agreement shall prevent limit or otherwise interfere with the right of the City to terminate this Agreement and the employment of Employee at any time with or without cause except as provided in Section 8 Severance and Benefit Payoff at Termination below. The City shall pay Employee for all services through the Effective Date of termination and Employee shall have no right to any additional compensation or payment except as provided in Section 8.

If the City terminates this Agreement thereby terminating Employee Employment with cause as determined by the affirmative votes of a majority of the members of the City Council at any regular meeting as required by Section 1416 of the Tustin City Code. Employee shall not be entitled to any severance As used in this Agreement cause shall mean any of the following:

 

1. Conviction of a felony or

2. Conviction of a misdemeanor arising out of Employee duties under this Agreement and involving a willful or intentional violation of law or

3. Willful abandonment of duties or

4. A pattern of repeated willful and intentional failure to carry out materially significant and legally constituted policy decisions of the City Council made by the City Council as a body or

5. Any other intentional or grossly negligent action or inaction by Employee that materially and substantially a impedes or disrupts the operations of the City or its organizational units, is detrimental to employee or public safety, or violates properly established rules or procedures of the City causing a material and substantial adverse impact on the City, or has a material and substantial adverse effect on the City interests as clearly defined and delineated by properly established City Council action taken by the Council as a body policy regulations ordinances or Tustin City Code provisions.

 

Consistent with the provisions of Section 1416 of the Tustin City Code in no event may Employee be terminated within ninety 90 days after any municipal election for the selection of one or more members of the City Council.

 

If Employee terminates this Agreement thereby terminating Employee Employment, Employee shall not be entitled to any severance.

 

Upon termination regardless of reason Employee shall be compensated.

 

In the event the City terminates Employee with or without cause the City and Employee agree that no member of the City Council the City management staff nor the Employee shall make any written oral or electronic statement to any member of the public the press or any City employee concerning the Employee termination except in the form of a joint press release or statement which is mutually agreeable to the City and Employee.  The joint press release or statement shall not contain any text or information that is disparaging to either party Either party may verbally repeat the substance of the joint press release or statement in response to any inquiry.

From a review of the agreement, it doesn’t appear that Biggs did anything to warrant his removal.  He wasn’t arrested or convicted, he didn’t abandon his duties (he even asked to meet with the council to align priorities), he didn’t intentional fail to carry out policy decisions by the council, and he did nothing to disrupt the city’s operations.  He wouldn’t comment for us yesterday so he adhered to the “no statement to the press” comment portion of the contract.

In short, Biggs hasn’t been let go but it’s pretty much a formality.  Amante wants him out.  It appears to be a termination without cause, a possible breach of contract by the city, and by contract, Amante and Biggs can’t discuss it.  So you have to wonder — what did Amante want to do that Biggs told him he couldn’t?  What sort of significant disconnect occured between the Mayor and the City Manager that was so severe, Amante would put Tustin taxpayers on the hook for what’s likely to be $200K (with salary and benefits)? 

Something doesn’t smell right in Tustin.

For any potential employers who research Biggs via Google, please know that if competence and ethics is what you’tre looking for in a city manager, Biggs, from all accounts from two members of the city council and scores of Tustin residents who have worked with him and interacted with him in a few short months, is your man.  Mayor Amante wants the political power of a strong mayor system like they have in Oakland or Los Angeles, but alas, lives in a city with a charter that calls for a city manager to actually run things.

I hear the City of Bell needs a a new city manager.

  2 comments for “What a difference 5 months makes

  1. citizenesquire
    March 3, 2011 at 2:35 pm

    Amante must go. He is a tyrant of the worst kind – not good for the city, the people nor his party. Amante, guided by self interest, makes irrational decisions and tries to twist the arms of his fellow council members. Last nights city council meeting was a grand example of both of these. First, without suitable explanation, an possibly violating the Brown Act in his dismissal of City Manager Biggs. This act cost the city and taxpayers an excess of $ 175,000. The other, based on his personal agenda, disregards staff recommendations regarding existing structures on a historical building site- throwing a sissy fit and keeping the council past midnight to ultimately loose a 4:1 vote.

    Sign Jerry up for a recall. This dictator must go.

  2. March 3, 2011 at 7:05 pm

    well, if Jerry can spend more than $200K of Tustin’s taxpayer’s money foolishly, how much more could a recall cost?

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