The pending ouster of City Manager David Biggs after four and a half months on the job is going to cost Tustin taxpayers $187,500 plus benefits in addition to a new salary for a new city manager.Â This detail and today’s revelation that Tustin’s legal bills have nearly tripled in the past five years have blown Tustin Mayor Jerry Amante’s credentials as a fiscal conservative out of the water. Tustin residents emailing us are writing to ask how to start a recall of Mayor Amante and how much will it cost, and to say an effort at organizing a recall is already underway.Â Never mind that Amante is termed out in December 2012 — that’s too long for some residents to wait.
While Biggs was hired last September with a 5-0 vote and over 55 other candidates, Amante clearly spearheaded the movement to terminate the city manager.Â We’re still waiting to learn if Biggs will have a hearing with the city council this week to save his job.Â If Biggs is unable to remain as city manager, Amante may be the next member of the council to worry about keeping his job.
Council member Deborah Gavello issued a newsletter to residents this morning; she goes into significant detail on the job action against Biggs.
Gavello writes: “On Tuesday, March 1, the City Council, in a 3-2, vote terminated the contract of our recently hired City Manager, David Biggs.Â Although his employment contract permitted termination without cause, I believe this decision will turn out to be costly, imprudent, and was certainly brutish.Â In their haste, the Council not only violated the Brown Act but failed to live up to its commitments as set forth in the employment contract including a written evaluation and an opportunity for the Manager to discuss his evaluation with each member of the council.Â It is clear that the termination was a fait accompli before our closed session meeting began.Â Â
Despite the reference in Mr. Biggs’ employment agreement, the City of Tustin has no written policies on city manager evaluations nor has it given staff direction to draft any.Â I was told by the previous city manager that evaluations were done by the Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem and not by the City Council as a whole.Â Researching the practices of other communities, I find this both unusual and unsatisfactory.Â There are five members of the city council, each one duly elected by the citizens of this city.Â Each one brings a unique perspective and hopefully represents our diverse community.Â But since my election in 2008 it has been made abundantly clear to me that we are not treated equally nor kept apprised of city business to the same extent.Â
I had hopes that such would change with our new City Manager, and in fact, it already had with Mr. Biggs assumption of duties.Â Â Lacking any reason for Mr. Biggs’ termination I can only assume that the current Mayor was unhappy with a City Manager who treated each member of the council (of whom the Mayor is one), with the same dignity and respect to which they are due.
The citizens of Tustin deserve a City Manager that is professional, respectful, and evenhanded.Â That is what we had in Mr. Biggs.Â Only time will tell what we will attract next time.”
Recalling a sitting city council member is not easy.Â But here are the rules of the road.Â It all starts with a trip to the city clerk’s office.Â
1.Â Submit the proper notifications; organize and file a notice of recall; have it served to the council member in question at City Hall (during public comments would be a hoot); you have to state that you are behind an effort to recall an official and why.Â And you need to give the council member a chance to respond.
2.Â Â Since we’re discussing a possible recall of the Mayor, who’s been in office for awhile, his term of service makes him eligible for a recall.
3.Â Check with the clerk for valid criteria by which a council member may be recalled and make sure the explanation of why you’d recall the Mayor fits one of those categories.
4.Â You need the gather the appropriate number of signatures.Â This is usually based on the number of voters in the last election cycle or their might be different rules in Tustin.Â But don’t just get theÂ appropriate number of signatures. Get more than you need.Â Â Go door-to-door, sit outside Target, go to Little League baseball games, start a website, manage a phone bank, and get started soon because you will only have a limited time to gather the appropriate number of signatures – usually 60 days.Â If you can’t get the signatures, then Amante can use the Charlie Sheen “Duh — winning” defense.
Would a recall work?Â A good gauge is to see how many Tustin residents show up to let the Mayor know how they feel at next week’s city council meeting.