Morro Bay hires new city manager amid employment dispute
August 13, 2014
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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