Stephen C. Petzold | City Manager Has Enough Protection

Letters to the Editor
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Tonight (Jan. 11), the Santa Clarita City Council will take final action to change the municipal code section 2.08.100, which describes the process for removing a city manager. This section has been in place since the city’s founding in 1987 and has served our community well through the years. Any change should not be made for light or transient reasons. 

Currently, a super majority of the council (three of five) is required for removing the city manager. The proposed change will make it a super-super-majority (four of five) to remove the city manager. There is no provision for what might happen if there were a vacancy, recusal, or abstention on the council at the time of the vote.

I believe that this change is unnecessary and not warranted. It is strange to me that the process of removal as embodied in the municipal code would suddenly become an employee’s fringe benefit subject to contract negotiation. The change will apply not just to the current city manager, but future holders of the office and City Councils.

Our city manager is well compensated in every respect that you might imagine and some you probably have not considered. The city manager’s salary, additional compensation, deferred compensation, public pension, health benefits, wellness, expense accounts and organization memberships are covered and competitive with other California city managers.

If the City Council were to remove the city manager, there is a severance package of the annual salary plus a month of salary for each year of service up to eight. I calculate the city manager’s severance after removal at nearly $500,000. That in itself would give pause to any City Council that felt it necessary and in the city’s best interest to remove the city manager.

Surprisingly to me, a felony conviction or inappropriate personal conduct inside or outside of the workplace does not automatically require removal of the city manager. The city manager supposedly serves at the pleasure of the City Council. The current procedure for removal is appropriate. 

In addition, the city manager enjoys a contract provision labeled “election protection.” The applicable contract clause enjoins a City Council from holding a vote to remove the city manager for 90 days after a municipal election.

The possible implications of this change for the future of Santa Clarita are too great for us to ignore. The action to change the municipal code is asinine in light of all the other protections provided to the city manager.

I urge the City Council to reconsider this action and oppose to move to dramatically shift the balance of power between the city manager and City Council.

I urge you to attend the meeting on Tuesday to provide comment, or send an email to [email protected]

Stephen C. Petzold

Santa Clarita

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