Morro Bay hires new city manager amid employment dispute

August 13, 2014
David Buckingham

David Buckingham

By JOSH FRIEDMAN

Morro Bay selected a new city manager the same day the applicant agreed to a settlement from a city that decided it did not want to hire him.

The Morro Bay City Council unanimously selected retiring U.S. Army Colonel David W. Buckingham from a pool of 50 applicants. The outgoing Army colonel agreed to take the position on Monday.

In the last year, Buckingham has lost both an Army command position he held and a city administrator job he sought. The dispute over the city manager position concluded Monday.

Following a contentious run in with military police, Buckingham had been trying to transition from the Army to a city manager position. Earlier this year, Buckingham applied for the city administrator’s job in Bishop, California.

The Bishop City Council reportedly chose to hire Buckingham, but then backed out after already agreeing to the contract.

On July 28, the Bishop City Council gave the city administrator job to another applicant.

Buckingham then sent the city of Bishop a letter claiming he had suffered damages.

The Bishop City Council voted to offer Buckingham a $38,000 settlement in order to avoid litigation over the contractual dispute, according to the Sierra Wave. Buckingham agreed to the settlement on Monday.

During his more than 25 years of military service, Buckingham commanded an Army airborne division and several battalions and served as the director of operations for the U.S. Army in Africa. From June 2011 to Sept. 2013, Buckingham held the position of commander of the U.S. Army garrison in Vicenza, Italy.

The American military base in Vicenza consisted of 16,000 people and operated with a $120 million budget, according to Buckingham’s LinkedIn page. Buckingham equates the job of garrison commander to the civilian position of city manager.

Last September, Army officials relieved Buckingham from his role of garrison commander two months after he engaged in a verbal altercation with a military policeman during a July 4 parade traffic jam. Italian media reported that Buckingham was drinking during the parade, in which he was supposed to be driving a vehicle.

Buckingham denies the allegation that he was under the influence of alcohol. He did admit, though, to losing his temper and cursing at the military policeman.

An army investigation found that Buckingham did not do anything criminal during the incident, but the colonel still lost his position as base commander. He has since worked in Washington, D.C. as director of the Army’s environmental programs.

The Morro Bay City Council must still finalize Buckingham’s hiring. The council is scheduled to do so at its next meeting on Aug. 26.

Buckingham is expected to begin work in Morro Bay on Sept. 28. His base salary will likely be $160,000.

Morro Bay has gone without a permanent city manager since January. Under the leadership of Mayor Jamie Irons, the Morro Bay council forced out both its city manager and city attorney late last year.

The employment dispute, which spanned several months, ended with former city manager Andrea Lueker and former city attorney Rob Schultz both accepting severance packages in exchange for their resignations.

Irons has since staved off a recall effort and won reelection. He has also maintained control of the council majority.

If the council hires Buckingham at the agreed upon rate, the colonel will receive a higher pay at the start of his contract than Lueker did at the conclusion of hers. Lueker left the city with a base salary of about $152,000.

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95 Comments

  1. Niles Q says:

    Info from the City Clerk on the citizen panelists who interviewed the Morro Bay city manager candidates.
    the first interviewers were
    red davis
    dana mclish
    barbara spagnola
    jeff jones
    mary hay

    the second interviewers were
    red davis
    karen robert
    janet gould
    mary hay
    dana mclish

    These are good citizens, business and community leaders and fairly well representative of the citizenry.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 8

    • taxpayer says:

      There was also an administrative committee that screened the candidates which consisted of Katy Lichtig, Steve Adams and several other administrators from throughout the County.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

    • panflash says:

      Niles Q- thanks for that information. That apparently answers one of the questions in my post of Aug. 17 at 12:09 pm. But all the other questions still remain:

      Was this a body subject to the provisions and requirements of the Brown Act?

      Who selected them? How were those citizens chosen? Were any public announcements of the availability of such citizen service posted and publicized so that anyone interested in serving would have the opportunity to apply? Were public notices of the date, time and location of their meetings posted and publicized? If not, why not?

      Was the city attorney consulted about the formulation of such “group of citizens”? Did the city attorney approve of the procedure for this citizen advisory process?

      Those people may very well be “good citizens, business and community leaders and fairly well representative of the citizenry” as you stated, but that’s not the point here. I’m sure that Morro Bay, with its population of approximately 10,500, has a great many good citizens, business and community leaders who are “fairly well representative of the citizenry.” The question is who made that judgement, and were all such citizens, business and community leaders in Morro Bay given an equal opportunity to serve in that capacity? And, once selected, was that group a public body as defined by the Brown Act and subject to all the provisions of the Brown Act?

      If not, why not?

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  2. taxpayer says:

    On another note, the Arroyo Grande City Manager who served on Morro Bay’s interview committe for a city manager, was just busted for having sex with one of his employees in City Hall. There’s a great reference!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 2

  3. Rambunctious says:

    “Italian media reported that Buckingham was drinking during the parade, in which he was supposed to be driving a vehicle.”

    Ahhh don’t worry…he’s perfect!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

  4. Casinogal says:

    LOCSD and MORRO BAY have BOTH gone bonkers in their recent hirings!
    In LOCSD, they even paid the new hire (who also had been fired from recent job) thousands of dollars to relocate to LO.
    Your tax dollars at work, being used by the people that were elected by the people (?) Or by only the people who bothered to vote (?).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

  5. racket says:

    I reiterate “taxpayer”‘s concerns about who were the “group of five Morro Bay citizens” mentioned in the New Times story that interviewed Buckingham?

    My interest isn’t so much from a witch-hunt perspective, but from a “was that panel stack with Irons’ supporters” perspective.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 1

    • taxpayer says:

      Actually, I think one of the disturbing things is that there were two separate screening groups that this list of candidates went through. One was and administrative group consisting of Katy Lichtig and numerous other beauracrats who don’t even live in our city. And then, there was another group made of friends of the Council. There was no ability for people from within the city, with previous experience, to apply and give their honest evaluations.

      The thing that I found most disturbing was that none of the city managers were allowed to interview the candidates and have the candidates ask them questions. This is normally the way things are done when picking the leader of an organization. In fact, many cities have the final four or five candidates at an open event, a social event, to meet with the taxpayers of the city, in order to give everyone a chance to meet the candidates before a selection is made.

      Everyone has to realize, that if Katy Lichtig was one of the committee members, she lived in Jamie Iron’s guest house for months. His wife works directly with Katy Lichtig. Also, Christine Johnston’s husband works in the same office. This is getting so incestuous that it almost seems criminal. Why are all these people, who have no reason to be involved in the process and aren’t taxpayers of Morro Bay, making choices that seem to be working against the best interest of our citizens? Cronyism anyone?

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 2

      • kayaknut says:

        “getting so incestuous”??? it has been this way for years, long before the current group was in office, why is it only a problem now??

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 17

      • panflash says:

        Good points all around from both racket and taxpayer. This apparent “group of five Morro Bay citizens” raises all sorts of potential red flags. Let’s think about this for a moment- if there truly was such a citizens’ committee of some sort, was this a body subject to the provisions and requirements of the Brown Act?

        If so, several pertinent questions arise. For example, who were these citizens? Who selected them? How were those citizens chosen? Were any public announcements of the availability of such citizen service posted and publicized so that anyone interested in serving would have the opportunity to apply? Were public notices of the date, time and location of their meetings posted and publicized? If not, why not?

        Was the city attorney consulted about the formulation of such “group of citizens”? Did the city attorney approve of the procedure for this citizen advisory process? Who the heck exactly IS the Morro Bay city attorney these days?

        This whole Morro Bay city manager selection fiasco is far from a done deal. Apparently the formal city council appointment is scheduled for the agenda of the Aug. 26 council meeting. There is still time for the city council to clean up this mess. Somebody better start providing some really good answers. And soon.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 1

    • taxpayer says:

      Yes!

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 1

    • taxpayer says:

      ABSOLUTELY!

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 1

  6. fishing village says:

    No matter who was selected the nay sayers who supported only the old manager would have been against him/her!! So sad really, MB government will move ahead with what needs to be done.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 17

    • mb business owner says:

      Ya know FV, I just don’t think so. If you are able to step back and look at the situation, would you really be able to support someone who was “relieved of duty” from the military (that is a big deal) and then contemplated suing a city. In addition to the fact that the search was not done with a professional, experienced search firm. Think about it, seriously. And I really don’t think it has anything to do with the old manager- for gods sake that is old news. Its just there seem to be red flags. Thanks for thinking about this.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 1

      • MajorityFan says:

        So what you are complaining about is having a city manager who had no experience in being a city manager and was dictated to by the city attorney? That is the reason the she was kindly let go, who was in over her head, and blindly followed the misguided direction of former council that cost us over $2million?

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 15

      • fishing village says:

        YES,
        I say give the guy a chance, let us see what he can help us with!! It is done now, so those who were in a BIG hurry to get a new manager can shut up and those who have no further say can also shut up! Let’s get on with the new WRP, get us some water, water for farmers and stop polluting the ocean. Important things like that, but of course you all need to badger this Council, don’t you. Ugh!

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 11

        • mb business owner says:

          Well FV, that is where you are incorrect, it is not done. No contract has been signed, so if the city council wanted to attempt to address the concerns of many residents, they could. Then again, arrogance and drunk with power issues will likely preclude that from occurring.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  7. taxpayer says:

    Is it true that Katie Lichtig was on the interview committee that screened people for the Morro Bay City Manager position? Could this be true? Seriously?
    Also, were any of the permanent employees of the City of Morro Bay involved in this consideration?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 1

    • nurse1 says:

      Anywhere where you have the name Lichtig you can be assured it will be followed by Mayor Jamie Irons of Morro Bay, his wife Director of Hr of SLO Monica Irons, (who Lichtig used to rent from) coupled with Council member of Morro Bay Christine Johnson who is aligned with Jamie Irons and his wife (the HR Director for the city of SLO ) who just happened to hire Christine Johnson’s husband for a cushy job in SLO .. Lee Johnson who Irons wife put in the position of Economic Development Manager..mind you that many were more qualified for. Talk about some incestuous back door shenanigans! Oh lets not forget about the interim City Manager of Morro Bay that King Irons hired (Mr. Kreins) who just by happenstance worked with Lichtig and his wife Queen Monica for the City of Beverly Hills. Cant wait to see where our new military city manager they hired that has ZERO experience fits into their family of friends.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  8. Kevin Rice says:

    What an embarrassment for Morro Bay! The destruction derby wrought by the opaque Irons Curtain has barely begun and the city is out millions of dollars and signs a contact to hire a greedy money grabber that readily turns like a dog to bite the poor citizens of Bishop.

    Mayor Irons is setting new and lower precedents that make even Gibson and Hill look like wankers in comparison.

    Grab your popcorn. This next few years is going to be one massive spectacle of destruction in Morro Bay.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 3

    • mb business owner says:

      I have been keeping up with this issue, but first time to every comment on an item. I appreciate your comments on this issue Mr. Rice and appreciate you using your real name. I would love to use mine, but fear bullying similar to what has been received by friends and acquaintances of mine from the group currently in charge. I am deeply saddened that we are at this point in Morro Bay and I have never seen such division in the City. In terms of this issue specifically, the city council should start over, agree they made a mistake and fix it! Arrogance and the non-ability to admit mistakes are not good traits for anybody or any group.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 22 Thumb down 1

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