Photo by Jamauri Bowles
City Attorney John Nagel is shown talking with East Palo Alto Mayor, Laura Martinez, just
before the start of the special East Palo Alto City Council meeting that was held on
Monday, July 14, 2014 to solicit comments regarding the performance of the East Palo Alto
City Manager, Magda Gonzalez.
After listening to months of community disapproval, the East Palo Alto City Council decided to replace its current City Manager, Magda González.
East Palo Alto's Mayor, Laura Martinez, announced the decision at the city council's regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, July 15. Martinez spoke during the session in the agenda where council members usually deliver individual reports.
In making her brief statement, Martinez said, “So, I do want to schedule a special meeting for next week. So, if the council could pull out their calendars. I'm looking at July 22 at 7 p.m. This meeting is going to be to consider the retention of a recruitment firm, a professional, to assist the city council in a search for a new city manager as the city manager’s agreement is set to expire on October 21, 2014. So, if everyone could look at their calendars and let me know if they're available next week.”
City council members checked their calendars and agreed to hold the special meeting.
The wording of Martinez's statement was subtle, but the message was clear. City officials are now starting an active search to find González’s replacement.
González was absent from the council meeting. The Assistant City Manager, Barbara Powell, spoke throughout the meeting, during the times the city manager would normally speak.
Martinez’s announcement that the council will seek a new city manager followed a Special City Council Closed Session meeting the council held this past Monday to get the community’s input on whether González’ two year contract should be renewed.
As council members listened to community members voice their opinions during the special meeting, it was clear that the community’s displeasure with several of González’s managerial decisions had taken its toll on her performance evaluation.
Of the dozens of people who addressed the council, most were not on her side. While there were a few speakers who asked the council to consider circumstances involving the city manager that have had a positive impact on the city, the majority of those who spoke expressed their lack of confidence in González and recommended that the council not renew her contract.
One of the community members, who spoke, said "East Palo Alto is a community ... to fight for and Magda González does not do that.”
Another resident said González does not positively represent her or the city of East Palo Alto. “González is not the person for this community,” she said. “We need a city manager that’s going to work hard and do something [that will make everyone]… feel proud.”
There were city recommendations González supported and actions she took over the past few months that left many questioning her motives. Last February, for instance, the city staff’s recommendation that the city disband its police department and hire the San Mateo County Sheriff's Department to provide city police services generated a lot of public disapproval, since city residents had sought for years to have their own police department.
The resignation last April of Carol Lamont, the city’s rent stabilization manager, after a city audit requested by González, only added fuel to the public’s displeasure with their city's top administrator.
The recent release of public records and documents obtained by Tenants Together, California’s Statewide Organization for Renter’s Rights, revealed exchanges involving González with Rent Stabilization Program staff, with representatives of Equity Residential, the city largest apartment firm, and with the consultant carrying out the audit that led some to conclude that there were improprieties surrounding the audit itself.
During Monday’s special meeting, council members heard speaker after speaker describe a city manager and a city administration that they thought was out of touch with the wishes of their community.
After the public comment ended at the special meeting, Martinez and the four other council members: Ruben Abrica, Larry Moody, Donna Rutherford and Vice Mayor Lisa Yarbrough-Gauthier went into closed session to deliberate on what they had heard from the public about González’ performance as city manager.
Martinez’ announcement at Tuesday’s council meeting showed the conclusion they had reached after their closed session. Those who spoke to the council at Monday’s meeting, in opposition to González, would support and, probably, praise the council’s decision to move forward in seeking a new city manager.
This article was written by Henrietta J. Burroughs and Jamauri Bowles. To contact the authors, send an email to email@example.com
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Rent stabilization coordinator resignation causes controversy, East Palo Alto Today, April-May 2014, p. 3.
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