Morro Bay council to hire legal help as battle between mayor and executives escalates
September 25, 2013
Morro Bay Mayor Jamie Irons progressed Tuesday night in his bid to fire the city’s two top executives, while opponents of his advanced an effort to recall him.
The Morro Bay City council voted Tuesday to hire an outside attorney to provide guidance through a dispute over the employment of City Manger Andrea Lueker and City Attorney Rob Schultz. The vote came amid the council’s second contentious meeting of the month over Iron’s attempt to fire Lueker and Schultz.
With Councilwoman Nancy Johnson absent, the council voted 3-1 to approve spending no more than $12,500 to bring in an outside attorney at $250 an hour. Councilman George Leage cast the dissenting vote. Johnson and Leage remain the only two members of the council who have voiced opposition to firing Lueker and Schultz.
Approximately 200 people attended the meeting Tuesday, and public comment lasted for three hours prior to the council voting on Irons’s proposal to hire legal aid.
The majority of the speakers supported Lueker and Schultz, but the public did not side overwhelming in their favor as it did at the September 12 meeting, in which the council initially considered firing them.
Irons, who called for the September 12 special meeting with the support of Councilman Noah Smukler and Councilwoman Christine Johnson, has yet to provide reason for pursing the termination of Lueker and Schultz’s contracts.
A report surfaced Tuesday, though, that showed the previous city council violated the Brown Act by adding three months of severance pay to the contracts of Lueker and Schultz in closed session and without notifying the public. Firing the city’s two top executives without cause will now cost more than $300,000, including severance pay and outside legal fees.
Nonetheless, Irons could face a recall over his push to fire Lueker and Schultz. A notice of intent to recall Irons circulated the audience Tuesday, and former councilman Bill Pierce said during public comment that petitioners had served Irons with the notice.
If 25 percent of registered Morro Bay voters now sign a petition to recall Irons, it will trigger an election.