It was late Tuesday afternoon when a concerned citizen called to advise me of an unusual item on the Dec. 14 City Council agenda.
Sure enough, there was an action item to amend the municipal code to change the process to remove the city manager from a 3/5 vote of City Council to 4/5.
This is a terrible idea that will be a lasting change passing to future city managers and tie the hands of future city councils.
There is absolutely no need to raise the supermajority vote required from 60 to 80%. Our federal Constitution only requires a simple majority vote of the House to impeach a president, and a two-thirds supermajority of the Senate to remove a president. Why should it take an 80% vote of a City Council to remove a city manager?
The back story of this item is a Nov. 23 performance evaluation of the current city manager that took place in a closed session of the council. According to a story in The Signal, the city manager received an exemplary evaluation. Why does he need or require a change in the municipal code to protect his position of leadership?
Performance evaluations usually take place just prior to negotiations regarding salary increases and other compensation paid in the form of fringe benefits. I have never seen a change in the municipal code used as a bargaining chip in contract negotiations.
I believe that the City Council violated the Brown Act on Nov. 23 by not noticing the public that a discussion about a proposed change of the municipal code would take place in closed session. There is no exception to the Brown Act for this to occur. Their discussion should have been limited to the evaluation and compensation paid in the form of salary and fringe benefits as related to the discreet position.
It is noteworthy that the city attorney did not make the required announcement out of the closed session that an action had taken place in closed session to put the proposed amendment to the municipal code on the Dec. 14 agenda.
The city manager is the only employee of the city council. The 3/5 requirement is adequate and appropriate for removal of a city manager who is not elected by the voters.
The amendment to the municipal code will have a second reading at a council meeting in January. I urge my fellow citizens to contact the council and urge them to leave the municipal code alone.
Stephen C. Petzold