Morro Bay hires new city manager amid employment dispute

August 13, 2014
David Buckingham

David Buckingham


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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fishing village

Could everyone just give the guy a chance? Morro Bay has a lot of work to do!


More work than you can imagine….mostly damage control that could have been avoided if Irons and his comrades hadn’t been elected.


My and overwhelming majority.


Still waiting to see how Mayor Irons get his property miraculously rezoned that he just bought downtown. Sure that will be slipped under the rug soon.


By the way, just who was on this citizen’s committee that is mentioned in the New Times as helping interview the finalists? How were they chosen? Also, were they all citizens of Morro Bay?


Did anyone see any advertisements for the opening, any money spent on the search?

Or was there just a short list from day one?


Also, how much has been spent on attorney fees+travel expenses since our mayor decided that it would be cheaper to do without a city attorney?


Not to be repetitive and restate what is posted on the other story regarding N. Johnson’s vote, but when you don’t have a professional, experienced search, these are the kind of results that you can expect. The city council decided to not have a search firm look for a new city manager, and keep in mind there is not a city in this county that has not used a search firm for such a high profile job. The city council should back up and re-start this project with a professional, experienced search firm and see what professional city managers are out there and available to the city of morro bay, the residents and employees deserve this much. And anyway, it sounds like the city council delayed the waste water treatment plant a few months from their actions at Tuesdays meeting, so why would this delay be any big deal?


Also the fact that this new hire has no California legal experience, I mean the governmental laws in VA are very different than California, brown act, ceqa, public records act etc.

This lack or experience will leave him at the mercy of his council, “it’s ok we don’t need to do it that way….”

This learning curve may cost Morro Bay, time will tell.


Did Andrea have any legal experience?


Kettle raises a very good question here. Where was the job opening advertised, for how long, and what was the text of the ad? We’ve seen statements that 50 candidates applied- if so, is that a high amount, normal, or low amount for a city manager job in a town like Morro Bay at this point in time? What was the comparative quality of those applicants and of the final candidates who were apparently interviewed?

In many states the process of hiring a city manager is an open transparent process that even makes public the names of at least the final candidates being interviewed. Was that done in the Morro Bay city manager recruitment? If not, why not?

The final candidate selected is from Virginia. Where were the other final candidates from? If the city council was inclined to select a candidate from outside of California, why did they offer the job to this one- who apparently has never worked as a city manager anywhere, much less anywhere in California? And why do they intend to offer such an exorbitant salary and benefit package to a candidate who has never served as a city manager anywhere in California or anywhere else?

If the Morro Bay city council expects us to believe that he is the best qualified candidate for their city manager job, then how bad must the rest of the applicants been? Any why would the council have had such a poor crop of candidates to choose from to begin with?

Anyone familiar with Morro Bay recognizes that it is a demanding full-service city with a very challenging political environment, and it requires someone with a strong record of municipal government leadership and accomplishment to guide it into the immediate future. But the city council selected, from apparently a group of 50 applicants, someone who has never served as a city manager before in California or anywhere else. And, let’s face it- the military command structure and culture is completely different and apart from contemporary municipal government, especially in California.

Again, going back to kettle’s very pertinent question: “Did anyone see any advertisements for the opening, any money spent on the search?”

The more we see of this, the worse it looks. Somebody needs to provide some good answers here. And quickly.


There is nothing wrong with your city. Do not attempt to adjust the governance. We are controlling all things public and private. We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical. We control the council,we control the management. We can change the focus to a soft blur or sharpen it to crystal clarity. Sit quietly and we will control all that you see and hear. We repeat: there is nothing wrong with your city. You are about to participate in a great adventure. You are about to experience the awe and mystery which reaches from the inner mind to – The Outer Limits.

Kevin Rice

“A report from Il Giornale di Vicenza stated that Buckingham had possibly consumed too much alcohol during the event on base and was then involved in a confrontation with military police.”

“Col. David W. Buckingham was relieved Sept. 6 after Lt. Gen. Donald Campbell, the U.S. Army Europe commander, “lost confidence” in his ability to lead, said Col. Rumi Nielson-Green, chief of public affairs for U.S. Army Europe.

“There were allegations of a verbal altercation, there was specific language that was used [by Buckingham], and it was boorish behavior in a very public place,” Nielson-Green told Army Times.”

“The investigation also delved into the command climate under Buckingham, which was a factor in Campbell’s decision,”

“…te items to focus on are the reference to “command climate”. Commanding officers typically have wide latitude to run their units as they see fit and good commanding generals or admirals don’t micromanage their field commanders. But, in my opinion, the seemingly mild reference to “command climate” means that this wasn’t an isolated incident but part of a pattern of poor conduct and/or poor judgment culminating in the incident cussing the MP out. In this case the misconduct was too flagrant and too public for the colonel’s commander, a Lt. General, couldn’t overlook any longer. Don’t kid yourself thinking it was an isolated incident. It was the straw that broke the camels back. No General wants to fire a colonel. They go out of their way to avoid doing so….”


It’s funny, literally, how the members of the political opposition to the current Council majority are outraged that the new City Manager once yelled at an officer who failed to follow orders. Yet, the same people don’t seem to have any problem with a current Council member, one of “their” people, who has been cited in the media for her temper tantrums. Those highly-visible tantrums include stalking out of Council meetings when she doesn’t get her way. She who was also overheard a while back, in front of City Hall, screaming the “F word” at another high-ranking City official whose actions had offended her.

Then there is another of “their people”, a high-ranking city government official, who is referred to by a small child of my acquaintance as, “ the drunk guy” – an assessment the child made after watching a public meeting, and with no input from anyone else . From the mouths of babes…

Another of “their people” was a high-ranking city government official known to have yelled at and insulted some Council members and who tried to stifle public comment that conflicted with his agenda.

I guess all that’s OK with the people attacking the new City Manager before he’s even started, but heaven forbid that a military officer yell at someone who didn’t follow orders. After all we all know that NEVER happens in the military, where the officers are always known for their gentle, sweet and kindly treatment of subordinates who don’t do what they’re told to do…

As for the breach of contract by the city of Bishop, $38,000 doesn’t sound to me like a big settlement. It sounds more like out-of-pocket expenses that might have been incurred making preparations to move to Bishop, and for the cost of a new job search.


Update: The nature of the $38,000 settlement is confirmed in another news source:

“After accepting the position in Bishop, Buckingham arranged to leave his position with the Army two months earlier than he’d planned, rented his home in Virginia and he was actively looking to purchase a home in Bishop.

“After Bishop withdrew their offer, an action that had caused my family and me measurable financial loss, we came to an agreement in which they compensated me for those losses,” Buckingham said.”


Oh, so because this behavior was exhibited by “their people”, it’s OK if it’s exhibited by one of “your people”. And hey, what’s 38K? Small change, right? Except it may or may not be his first lawsuit against a city. And let’s definitely base our opinions on what small children say.


Not a very convincing argument, Redsoxman, and not on point.

What I said was that political opponents of the current Council majority never complain about the most outrageous behavior by their pals currently and formerly in City government. Yet they attack a new hire, whom they evidently perceive as being aligned with the current City administration, for doing something that pretty much every army officer does – which is to get after soldiers who disobey orders.

And as for the small child’s opinion on the “drunk man”, the point is obviously that even this little kid saw what has long been obvious to the rest of us.

$38K was obviously what Buckingham had spent in good faith to get ready to move to Bishop for the job there. Why should he take the loss when the city decided to renege on the contract? I suspect he could have gotten a lot more than out-of-pocket costs if he’d wanted to.


Oh, so because you have vast experience in the military, and because you must have been there as you seem to know exactly what went down, you can make excuses for his behavior…nice! And I agree with you, you and your cohorts have the mind of a small child.

fishing village

Well said!

I don’t read all of the messages from all of those who post on here.

fishing village

All very reasonable.


I love it! A militaristic city manager that will be bowing down to a bunch of bird watching, granola eating lefty’s, supported by a bunch of women whose armpits, legs and chins have yet to see a razor or wax. This is some funny sh**!!. Might have to get Charter back so we can watch the show! Going down to Achievement House to get some Birkenstocks to wear to the council meetings. We like to fit in. LMAO


Depends might be a nice touch.


MF, since I am a nurse and I could not agree with you more! These old hippie’s are already sporting them. Just ask Dick and Jane!


So you are a nurse anonymously insulting people and cracking jokes about senior medical issues.

This is not funny sh**!!.

Stay classy Morro Bay


My question is: Where, oh where, have all those staunch Irons supporters gone? They were chirping mightily when we got rid of the City Manager and City Attorney. “He is very wise” one asserted about his decision-making ( I believe that was mbactivist1). Since then he’s hired a past-his-time City Manager who can’t even successfully do a background check without missing obvious red flags, who is an ex-police chief who probably wouldn’t recognize a Morro Bay department head if he walked into him/her, who is an egotist who has personally destroyed any semblance of “team” by neglecting to establish any kind of consistent meeting schedule with said department heads for valuable input from them. Almost sounds like the mayor, just plowing ahead with his own agenda regardless of those pesky facts that would alert him that his decisions might not be the soundest.


More sour grapes – Kreins is the best City Manager in many, many years – infinitely better than the last two. He’s reviled by some of the posters here largely because he replaced one of their cronies.


Please list all the beneficial things he’s done since he’s been here that makes him “infinitely better”.


Still waiting for the list…I only hear crickets chirping…..


That’s the village idiot typing…


We’re waiting!


Redsoxman, do you suppose now with the new city manager Mayor Irons will get the property he bought recently downtown rezoned? You know the property that our EXPERIENCED city attorney told him he could not do just because he was the mayor? Wonder if Irons will fire the military man like he did our city attorney when he tells him he can not do things that are illegal?




General Secretary Iron’s and his fellow comrades appointed Cossack, who will ensure tranquility within the empire.


I can’t wait until the Colonel doesn’t get his way and he “curses” at the City Council. There’s not a group of individuals less magnanimous than a high ranking paper-pusher in the Army.

I am quite confident that the Colonel is going to add a whole new level of entertainment to City Council meetings.


I also think it should be interesting the first time he catches George Leage parking in his own personal “red zone”, I have images from the basic training scenes in”Full Metal Jacket.


I hope he does before George runs over someone on his way through the parking lot.


Uh oh.

The bloom is off the rose, and he hasn’t even started yet.


“Kreins, a former Beverly Hills police chief who has conducted hiring searches for other government agencies, vehemently defended his vetting process.”

So one of Katie’s buddies from the old days in BH, figures.

Kevin Rice

Wow. You’re right. It’s a sickener.


Oh cmon racket, Noah did his research and made his comment about the military. That WHIMP knows ZERO about the military.