Morro Bay manager and attorney still employed after fiery meeting

September 13, 2013

IMG_0354Morro Bay Mayor Jamie Irons led a special city council meeting Thursday to discuss the possibility of firing City Manager Andrea Lueker and City Attorney Robert Schultz. But, the capacity crowd in attendance showed more interest in recalling the mayor than in releasing the city’s highest-ranking employees.

Lueker and Schultz remained employed upon the adjournment of the meeting Thursday, which began in a small conference room in City Hall and moved to the Veterans’ Memorial Building, where a standing room only crowd welcomed the city manager and attorney with a standing ovation. The city manager and attorney remain “at will” employees, though, and the council can, at any point, call a meeting and choose to fire them.

After the council heard more than 50 public comments supporting Lueker and Schultz and only 10 speakers opposing them Thursday afternoon, it met in closed session for more than an hour to discuss the proposed termination of their contracts. Upon returning from closed session, the council reported that it took no action, and neither the council members, nor Lueker or Schultz, would say what, if any, agreements were reached.

Prior to the closed session, Schultz and Lueker requested that the council reveal any charges or complaints levied against them. Irons said there were none.

“Five months ago, I received a satisfactory review from you and each council member and had no idea until 10:45 yesterday that this was going to be called,” Schultz said to Irons.

Schultz, as well as Councilwoman Nancy Johnson, asked Irons to explain his reasoning for considering termination of the contracts. Irons did not say why he called into question the performance of the city manager and attorney.

Schultz also said Irons violated the Ralph M. Brown Act, government code and municipal code in the manner in which he conducted meeting. Irons said he researched and followed the law, but did not seek outside counsel.

Numerous public speakers accused Irons of having a hidden agenda, some suggesting he had pre-picked replacements for Schultz and Lueker.

“I don’t have any response to a hidden agenda,” Irons said. “I called this by myself.”

Irons, along with council members Christine Johnson and Noah Smukler, called for the special meeting on Wednesday, just one day prior to the event.

Nancy Johnson said she was out of town at the time of the announcement and found out about the meeting from a friend. Johnson, who said Thursday that Irons failed to demonstrate transparency, asked the mayor why he scheduled the meeting on such short notice.

“It is not sudden at all,” Irons said. “I have given considerable thought to this. Nor should it be unexpected.”

When the council members arrived in the conference room Thursday, observers were sitting on the floor, lining up in the hallways of city hall and standing outside the building. The council then agreed to move the meeting to the veterans’ hall, where meetings typically occur.

Nancy Johnson said that Councilman George Leage and she requested Wednesday to move the meeting to the veterans’ hall, but they did not receive a response to their request.

Many current and former city employees joined the capacity crowd at the veterans’ hall, most of whom displayed support for Lueker and Schultz. Public speakers repeatedly praised the work of the city manager and attorney, and urged the council not to fire them.

“These people are not incompetent,” said former mayor Bill Yates. “It’s a dumb idea.”

Other speakers described the idea of firing Lueker and Schultz as “insane” and “horse shit.” One said it “breaks my heart.”

Several others said they signed a recall petition, which was circulating in the audience.

Supporters of Irons, Christine Johnson and Smuckler said they trusted the council majority to make the right decision, and that it had the support of the majority of the city’s voters.

“This is here and this is a big deal because the people who are in question decided to make it a big deal,” said former councilwoman Betty Winholtz. “The majority of people who have voted for you, outside the couple that spoke this afternoon, I would suggest they’re still on you’re side.”

Lueker, a city employee for 26 years, became the city manager in 2008. Her current annual salary is $152,224 a year. For the past 16 years, Schultz has served as the city’s attorney. His current salary is $151,588 a year.

If the council chooses to fire Lueker and Schultz without cause, it will owe them severance pay.

 


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mbactivist1

The Council would not have taken such drastic action as this unless there were some really major problems involving Schultz and Lueker. No such action is ever taken lightly.


Those who closely follow Morro Bay politics know that those two are very, very far from being the angelic figures their buddies tried to paint them as. There is clearly much more going on than meets the eye. It appears that this meeting was just a first step in a process that was begun to protect the city and its residents from City staff’s bad behavior.


The crowd that showed up at the meeting, attacked the Council, and tried to intimidate any speaker who opposed them, are not likely to convince any intelligent person that Schultz and Lueker are blameless and the Council did something wrong. With the exception of the out-of-towners imported for the occasion, they are the very same people who supported Borchard and Yates in 2012, and were behaving as they always have and probably always will.


The way that the meeting was set up and handled by Council was clearly based on sound legal advice, and was pretty standard for meetings where personnel matters are addressed. The suggestions that this should have been “transparent” suggest a major lack of understanding of how this kind of proceeding is, and must be handled.


SLOthinker

I disagree that this indicates that there were major (or any) problems with the two. The mayor stated that there were no complaints and no “cause for action” This strongly indicates that this is a policy dispute. As I stated below, the council is within its authority to replace them if they feel they are not supporting their initiatives or implementing their policies.


mbactivist1

While they were evidently not considered by the Council as part of this action, there have been many complaints about Schultz and Lueker over the years. Most of the ones I have seen and heard involve documented allegations of illegal actions taken by city staff, and selective enforcement of city laws that favored city staff’s pals. Evidently, the Council did not even need those complaints to proceed on their recent action.


Most of the people who spoke out in favor of Schultz and Lueker at the meeting talked about the nice things the two had done for them. Unfortunately, their experiences are not universal. Some of those who have suffered from the inappropriate actions of city staff were present, but many were kept silent by the intimidation tactics of an unruly mob of ruffians. Police were at the meeting but evidently not close enough to see or hear what was going on.


If you have not talked to any of the victims of Morro Bay city staff’s bad behavior, do not assume that Schultz and Lueker are angels. Consider the fact that most of the people that CCN has exposed were nice to almost all of the people they dealt with. Unfortunately, they were not nice to everyone.


racket



09/13/2013 at 1:53 pm


The Council would not have taken such drastic action as this unless there were some really major personality problems involving Schultz, Lueker and Irons. ”


Fixed it for ya.


SLOthinker

I think you have put your finger on it.


givemeabreak

Sound legal advice? Who paid for that? Was it the mayor or was it any disgruntled folks that are currently going through some litigation with the city?


SLOthinker

However this turns out, whether the two are retained or let go, the mayor needs to explain to the citizens why this happened.


Lueker and Shultz are at will employees, so the council can terminate them without cause. This means that they didn’t do anthing wrong, but the council wants different people in those positions. So from a technecal point of view, they can just vote in closed session to terminate and that is it. But from a practcal and political point of veiw, you can’t remove the two highest ranking city managers without explaining to the pubic why.


This has not been handled well to say the least. If the mayor and his supporters want any chance of continuing in office long enough to push their agenda, they better move quick with the explaining part.


slophocles

People don’t understand Morro Bay. It is a polarized town with a political pendulum that swings back as soon as everyone forgets how bad the previous regime was. There is no middle ground in Morro Bay which is why it never gets anything done, or done right. All Irons has done is sped up the swinging of this pendulum away from his “side” and back toward the other “side”. Let’s see if it makes it all the way, and how long it takes, because one thing is for certain in Morro Bay: it will swing back.


Rambunctious

Every now and then right wins and wrong loses….Memo to the three stooges….AAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA


Public_Parent

Oh, the firing will still likely happen.


slophocles

Yeah, that’s it – right and wrong. It’s always that simple.


MaryMalone

It is the lack of transparency that shows the intent of the politician. Scheduling it with just 24-hours notice, to be (originally) held in a room with seating room about the size of a walk-in closet, is certainly not transparent. It is indicative of someone who thinks they are pulling a fast one and the public will be too stupefied to mount a challenge.


As my mother, a political activist, used to say:


“Those who act in the cover of darkness fear to act in the light of day.”


That is what is so disgusting about Mayor Irons’ move–the sheer cowardice of the way he went around it.


slophocles

I agree. Actions can be “right” and “wrong” but it’s never as simple as the wrong side vs. the right side, or the “stooges” vs. the right side.


MaryMalone

It was an issue of a political cabal trying to make a slick move vs. the people. The people won.


Everyone will attach their own tag to the outcome. “Right” and “wrong” are possible tags. It is their right to attach whatever tag they want.


However, tags can also be attached to the process under which the mayor attempted to effect his goal of getting rid of the City Manager and City Attorney. People will also make judgments about the process. Two options are “right” and “wrong.”


I don’t think, especially in government, that a “right” tag can be attached to the outcome of a “wrong” process. The reason politicians use “wrong” processes, and don’t act in a transparent manner, is because they are afraid they can’t effect their goal by honest means.


Face it–the cabal attempted to pull a fast one, and the people of Morro Bay caught them at it and refused to stand by meekly while it occurred.


Public_Parent

It “was an issue”? It IS an issue, that is not over.


slophocles

It wasn’t very slick, and I don’t know how the people “caught them”. You can’t sneeze in Morro Bay without everyone knowing.


As the world turns

City attorneys and city managers are typically at-will employees. Shultz and Lueker took their positions knowing this. A city attorney and city manager should understand politics. Grow up and join the other at-will employees who were dismissed. By the way, how many times did Shultz and Lueker participate (e.g., sit in on closed sessions with City Council) in firing at-will employee?


slophocles

Still don’t understand why two at-will employees would be brought in at the same time to discuss the possible termination of one or the other. The last time I got fired it was a one-on-one discussion. (All the other times too).


MaryMalone

Again, the lack of transparency indicates a questionable motive. The people of MB understand this, they believe their demands need to be heard and considered before such a major destabilizing step of their city government, and, in the end, the people won out.


MaryMalone

QUOTING ARTICLE: “But, the capacity crowd in attendance showed more interest in recalling the mayor than in releasing the city’s highest-ranking employees.


——–


And that is what happens when a cabal makes an ill-thought-out power move, the outraged public pushes back, and the cabal is forced to blink.


Not only does the cabal fail, they do so in a public venue, they show they are at the mercy of the public, and the cabal ends up looking like nincompoops.


I am so impressed by the politically active folks in Morro Bay. The cabal tried to make the public’s participation difficult, yet the people did not flinch.


racket

Mary:


You are mincing words.


They are nincomshit.


panflash

This was the most badly-bungled attempt at firing public officials that I have ever seen. Regardless of wherever you may personally stand on the matter, you can’t help but think that it’s apparently Amateur Hour in the Morro Bay City Council chambers.


MaryMalone

Yowzer. You would think the cabal on the MB City Council were competing with Adam Hill for the SLO County Doofus of the Year Award.


DemandTransparency

“Yowzer. You would think the cabal on the MB City Council were competing with Adam Hill for the SLO County Doofus of the Year Award.”


Or Mary Lucey from the Oceano Community Services District Board.


I’m beginning to think that ‘those who can’t, run for local politics’


givemeabreak

panflash….or as one great citizen addressed the mayor and a couple of co-horts “hello Rookies”! and ended without mincing words explaining what the whole debacle was. HORSESHIT!!!!!!!!!


givemeabreak2

Not sure what all that means, givemeabreak, but it sounds like a concession. I accept.


slophocles

Morro Bay has had its moments but this is up there. I’m more disappointed in Smukler and Johnson than Irons. They shouldn’t have gone along with this. And you’d think Irons’ wife – the SLO City Human Resources Director (despite recent errors there) would have told him how stupid it was. I am dumbfounded – Irons was elected on his perceived intelligence. Maybe it was a strategic ploy of some kind.


MaryMalone

They THOUGHT it was a “strategic ploy.” Instead, it turned out to be a “Walk Down Political Bad Moves Lane.”


racket

slophocles:


I too am disappointed Christine and Noah got sucked in to this.


In their defense, however, the closed session vote DID NOT HAVE A MAJORITY TO TAKE ACTION. To me this means one (or both) of them was able to turn it around when it really mattered. Just sayin’.


MaryMalone

The article indicates they decided to take no action. That doesn’t mean they voted on it. After seeing the response of the people they may have simply not had anyone willing to bring it up to a vote.


Jorge Estrada

Fire without cause is BS. If someone is fired without cause and is still being paid, I beleive they should be required to report to duty and wear a shirt that says” FIRED WITHOUT CAUSE” until their severance package runs out.


taxpayer

I think the people who scheme to try and fire other people without cause should be forced to wear a red shirt while out in the community that says “I DON’T CARE WHAT YOU WANT OR WHAT IT COSTS. I’M THE MAYOR”.


givemeabreak

taxpayer……..you are wrong on the t-shirt comment….it should read I am the DICTATOR!!!!!!!!!


MaryMalone

What I like is when Council member Nancy Johnson asked Mayor Irons why there was a lack of transparency and why the issue had to be considered under such short notice, he replied:


It is not sudden at all. I have given considerable thought to this. Nor should it be unexpected.


So, it is all about YOU, Mr. Mayor? Or do you expect MB residents to be psychics who can intuit what you have been considering and should, somehow miraculously, expect his attempt at a slick political move?


givemeabreak

BRAVO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! MaryMalone : )


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