Morro Bay city attorney’s job back on chopping block

October 19, 2013
Jamie Irons

Jamie Irons

By JOSH FRIEDMAN

Morro Bay City Council members have set special meeting for Monday to discuss terminating city attorney Rob Schultz.

Schultz and City Manager Andrea Lueker have been battling to keep their jobs since September 11, when Mayor Jamie Irons called a special council meeting to discuss firing the city’s top two executives. Though Lueker’s job security remains in question, the council has not scheduled another meeting to discuss firing her.

Last month, Councilman Noah Smukler and Councilwoman Christine Johnson supported Irons in calling for a September 12 closed session meeting to discuss firing both Schultz and Lueker. The meeting spurned outcry from more than 50 members of the public, and the council chose to take no action.

Later in September, the council voted to hire outside legal counsel to provide advice over the employment dispute. Irons since hired San Luis Obispo law firm Simas and Associates to handle the matter.

Supporters of Schultz and Lueker responded by initiating a recall of Irons.

On Monday, the council will meet at 3 p.m. to discuss firing Schultz. The hearing will occur in closed session, but the council will take public comment beforehand.

Irons has yet to publicly provide a reason for promoting the termination of either Schultz or Lueker. Firing both employees without cause will cost the city more than $300,000 in legal fees and severance pay.

The contracts of both Schultz and Lueker call for nine months of severance pay, but critics contest whether they are entitled to all of the money.

On November 1, 2012, the previous Morro Bay council amended the contracts of both Schultz and Lueker to include nine months of severance pay. Their contracts previously stipulated for six months of severance pay.

The council made the change in a special closed session meeting, violating the Ralph M. Brown Act. The Brown Act requires changes in executive pay to occur in open session.

But, Schultz faults the current council for not correcting the severance pay issue.

A month following the meeting in which the council increased Schultz’s and Lueker’s severance pay, the current council took over. Irons replaced former mayor Bill Yates and Johnson replaced former councilwoman Carla Borchard.

In an email exchange between Schultz and San Luis Obispo Tribune reporter Julia Hickey, the city attorney said he notified the current council that it must either approve or rescind the severance pay changes.

“The new council was informed of this issue and it was my recommendation that the mayor or council place this item on an open session agenda for either ratification or rescission,” Schultz wrote. “Unfortunately the new council refused to schedule the matter for open session.”

Schultz also notes that his contract originally included nine months of severance pay, but the council lowered it to six months in 2011.

“The council unilaterally reduced it to six months in 2011 for no reason,” Schultz wrote. “I have always maintained that I am entitled to nine months severance based upon my negotiated contract.”

A majority vote will be necessary to terminate Schultz’s contract Monday.

Council members Nancy Johnson and George Leage have both expressed opposition to firing Schultz and Lueker. They have also accused Irons of handling the employment dispute with a lack of transparency.

A petition to recall Irons began circulating Morro Bay this week. If 25 percent of registered Morro Bay voters sign the petition, a recall election will occur.

 


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Myself

So whats up in the bay news I see that iron has tried to sneak in the contract with no cap and there is other costs in it now that make it look like the council gave its OK,although Nancy Johnson caught this and Iron tried to shut her down,what gives here is this guy working for us or himself.


givemeabreak

He works for himself. By his own emperor rules.


mb20

Its just my speculation but my understanding of the situation is:


Without cause being given yet for Schultz’s firing, and the manner in which Leuker and Schultz both got brought up to be terminated, it seems that Irons either did not work well with these employees OR thought there performance was not good enough.


However, with twelve years of satisfactory reports and two of the five council members against the firing it really makes me question that his performance could be THAT subpar.


If this was really due to an incident of the attorneys negligence there would have been a 4-1 or 5-0 vote.


The only question now is, will Morro Bay find a better attorney? For cheaper?

It seems unlikely to me.


It seems to me that pro business Schultz and anti business Irons don’t agree on much.

That’s ok though, Morro Bay can continue to be an anti growth anti business anti tourism dwelling place forever. Yay.


Public_Parent

I believe Morro Bay is one of the only (if not the only) city in SLO County that has (had) in-house counsel. Most other cities contract outside counsel and pay MUCH less for it. Could be up to a $200,000/year savings if the City goes that route.


Human Reason

You should really check your figures. before Schultz became City Attorney Morro Bayy was paying close to $500k per year.There were over 10 litigation items. Since 2002, the amount has been around 300k. Atascedero City Attorney is over $500k and paso is around $900k. There is no way this decision will save the City money.


Public_Parent

Grover Beach (similar size to Morro Bay) pays their contract counsel around $100K/year.


Human Reason

Look behind the smoke and mirrors in Grover beach. That contract is just for the City Attorney to attend council meetings, planning meetings and and office hours one day a week. pretty good gig for $100k. The City then has to pay other legal counsel for other matters, i.e. personnel, land use, litigation . And they have not TOT or State lands leases. I believe their total is around $350k last time I checked.


givemeabreak

LOL….Public Parent….time to get off the Kool _Aide


givemeabreak2

how comes you put a underscore between Kool and Aide? and why did you put an e on the end of aide?


givemeabreak

If that is true……just take a look at Grover City….oh I forgot they changed the name to Grover Beach as to try and make the place sound inviting.


givemeabreak2

ha ha! way to stick it to Gravel Beach, give me a break!


betty winholtz

I was on the Morro Bay City Council when the city attorney’s severance was changed. I disagree with his statement, “The council unilaterally reduced it to six months in 2011 for no reason.” The date is incorrect; it should be July 12, 2010. It was a 4-1 vote with Borchard, DeMeritt, Peters, and Winholtz voting yes. Reasons were discussed and he gave no argument.


Kevin Rice

[b]WHOA! STOP THE PRESS![/b]


This is interesting information you provide. Your council violated the Brown Act in the EXACT SAME WAY alleged against the last council! The item you heard on July 12, 2010 was on the agenda under the EXACT SAME LANGUAGE as the November 1, 2012 item.


Are you aware that compensation may not be discussed under 54957 “PERSONNEL ISSUES”?


Are you aware that final action and vote must be taken in OPEN SESSION on any changes to unrepresented employee contracts?


Wow!


mbactivist1

Interesting. So Schultz failed in his duty to inform that prior Council of the law too. Obviously this is a pattern. No wonder he is getting fired.


Kevin Rice

Noah seems to be the common thread.


Human Reason

It is my understanding that Shultz’s evaluation was above satisfactory in 2010 but you Borchard and Demerrit told him to accept a reduction in his severance or you will fire him. Doesn’t sound like you negotiated fairly with him to me. Poor guy why would anyone want to put up with what goes on with Council members.


kkeene88

I ditto Taxpayer’s comments – wake up Morro Bay…..this settlement is going to cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars for Schultz and Leuker’s will be similar. In addition, the council majority will be lucky if they are not sued for hostile work environment, defamation of character, among other things based on some of the antics they have engaged in.


Recalling in the only hope, certainly not for Schultz or Leuker, I seriously doubt if those two would ever consider working for the City again, but a recall will hopefully stop the irresponsible and reckless direction the mayor and his cohorts have taken.


Remember, your signature on the recall is anonymous – spread the word!


taxpayer

Folks. It’s definitely time to fire Mayor Irons after the show he put on tonight. So after all of this time, he’s going to settle with the City Attorney which only reinforces the perception that there was no cause to begin with. How much is this going to cost the taxpayers of Morro Bay? Sewer and water rates are next on the block to be raised. When the upcoming report on costs to put the sewer plant in alternate sites everyone can see for themselves what these incompetent fools have cost the citizens of Morro Bay in one year! It’s only going to get worse. These three are in so far over their heads that they are going to cost all of use millions in the long run. They’ve already divided the citizens to an extent that I’ve never seen before. As far as the people who say we elected them and I trust that they are doing the right thing, they need to quit being cult members and analyze what the damage being done is going to cost them and their children in the future. Sign the recall. Jamie Irons has no clue what he’s doing and has proven that he cares nothing about what it costs the taxpayers. The emperor has no clothes.


slophocles

Has anyone ever noticed how many experts we have in Morro Bay? It seems that just about everyone that steps up to that podium for public comment is the authority on at LEAST one area. We have more lawyers, engineers, anthropologists, financial advisors, economists, historians, educators, archaeologists, sociologists, ex-Fortune 500 company owners, ecologists, and underwater welders, per capita, than any community in the country. No wonder we get so much done.


racket

Little harder to con them than the sheeple you’re used to, or what?


slophocles

Just an observation. Wasn’t even thinking about conning. Those who know the con don’t spend too much time worrying about it. Baa-aaah.


givemeabreak

Don’t forget the psychologist! lol


racket

Morro Bay just misfired their attorney. That is such a horrible thing to foul up.


Now, you’ve got a sharp attorney with a chip on his shoulder and time on his hands looking to get even. Nice.


The Simas counsel was guiding them on an illegal contract (mayor cannot contract, two sigs required, no city business license). From my armchair, I can see they bungled the dismissal thoroughly. What else do you think a sharpie like Schultz is going to find?


givemeabreak

Am hoping Schultz sues the city to the fullest extent possible. That would be some tax dollars I would be more then willing to contribute to.


givemeabreak2

That sounds like a double-standard, o Creator. Shouldn’t we stick to our guns – wait, bad word – shouldn’t we hold ourselves to our own standards?


Human Reason

How do you terminate an employee on Monday and then get him to work til midnight on Tuesday a 16 hour workday. Amazing. The professionalism of Schultz to remain and show respect to these idiots is mind blowing.


givemeabreak2

I just watched the public comment and I was real disappointed in John Barta. I though he was gonna break out a visual aid like that betty Winholtz crow he did one time. But rick grant thram did a good one with his cold weather gear. i dont get it though cuz it dont never get that cold in morro Bay usually.


givemeabreak

You must not forget the Valium laced lady with her cute lil bonnet on.


givemeabreak2

Oh yeah, she was good too.


SLOthinker

Love the irony.

Hire a lawyer for advice; his advice, fire the lawyer.


grayotter

His advice was for the City Council to ignore the Brown Act several times!!! Probably far more than we know… How can he be trusted to give accurate legal advise? He may have lots of friends, probably benefiting from his unethical advise and leadership, but he still took the City down the slippery slope of Breaking A Very Important Law. How would you like all the jerks in city/county office you don’t like making decisions without your knowledge or benefit?


Pelican1

The right thing to do never requires any subterfuge, it is always simple and direct.

RECALL THE MAYOR