Saturday, Oct. 20, 2012
Los Banos police chief to serve as interim city manager
By Thaddeus Miller / firstname.lastname@example.org
Los Banos' mayoral candidates engaged in finger pointing after City Council failed to settle on a new top official in a six-month process.
In the interim, Los Banos Police Chief Gary Brizzee will serve as acting city manager beginning Nov. 1 after a unanimous vote by City Council on Wednesday. He will wear the hat of top official and top cop until a permanent city administrator is hired. City Manager Steve Rath will retire Oct. 31.
Brizzee said he is up to the task.
"I think I can help continue moving the city forward," Brizzee said.
City Council picked a firm, at a cost of $24,500 to $26,000, in April to search for a new city manager.
Councilman Joe Sousa said not having a permanent city manager after a six-month search is unusual. He said the process had whittled more than 40 applicants down to "two or three."
"I feel that there was politics involved to delay the process intentionally," Sousa said.
Sousa missed a scheduled meeting about the city manager position. He said he was in the emergency room of Memorial Hospital, Los Banos and missed the Aug. 17 closed session meeting due to a bladder procedure the night before. He said despite being given a number of dates to reschedule, the group did not come to a decision.
Sousa said Mayor Mike Villalta and an unnamed member of the City Council were dragging their feet to push the decision until after the Nov. 6 election.
"There was no reason not to complete the process," he said.
Villalta and the unnamed councilmember requested an "unnecessary final interview," Sousa said, and then didn't commit to a date.
Villalta declined to discuss the process after the City Council meeting, but provided a prepared statement the next day.
"It was most unfortunate that Mr. Sousa was unable to attend the final round of applicant interviews," Villalta said, reading from the statement. "I then chose to delay the process until such time when he could participate."
Villalta said discussion of closed-session proceedings is against the law.
Sousa said it is not the mayor's decision to delay the process.
Councilman Scott Silveira said he was disappointed City Council could not appoint a city manager because of scheduling conflicts. He said it was difficult to line up the schedules of City Council, the mayor, the recruiter and two applicants.
"If we're all serious with ourselves, we all have a little blame," he said.
Brizzee is a 15-year veteran of the police force. He expects to get good career experience while advancing the city.
"All of the department heads that I work with every day are outstanding at what they do," Brizzee said. "So, it was kind of an easy decision for me."
Brizzee, who has been chief since May 2010, said he can balance the two positions because one is on an interim basis. He said there will be a learning curve when it comes to wastewater, regional transportation impact fees or anything else a police chief does not see on a regular basis.
Brizzee will earn $10,937 per month, the bottom end of the city manager pay range, which is $770 more per month than he makes as police chief.
Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-6562.