A City Council divided over salary and other contract issues on Tuesday hired a retired city manager from San Luis Obispo as Rohnert Park’s interim city manager Tuesday.
John Dunn, who will be paid $15,900 a month plus a $2,000 housing and car allowance, steps into what has become somewhat of a revolving-door position at the head of a city with severe budget problems.
“He’s ready to go and he understands our problems,” said Mayor Pam Stafford.
Under his contract, Dunn, who retired in 2000 after 13 years as San Luis Obispo’s top government official, is guaranteed six months of his one-year contract.
The contract was approved on a 3-2 vote. Council members Amie Breeze and Joe Callinan, who voted against Dunn’s contract, said that with the city already negotiating with a new and permanent city manager, it was too expensive and fiscally unwise.
“The sticker price is pretty surprising to me and in our budget crunch, I don’t feel it would fiscally responsible,” Breeze said.
Callinan said that department heads could rotate through the city manager’s position until it was permanently filled, which he said could take place as soon as in 45 days, and that the terms of Dunn’s contract would hurt the city as it campaigns for a half-cent sales tax measure that proponents say is crucial to its financial viability.
“We’re asking people to sacrifice, to put their money out there, and here we are putting money out the window,” he said. “In my eyes, this would be one of the silliest things this council could do.” Since April 30, Darrin Jenkins, the city’s engineer and development services director, has been serving as acting city manager.
Stafford said that after a year of layoffs and cutbacks, department heads are already stretched to breaking, and could not be expected to effectively take on more work.
“I absolutely do not think that our department heads can be expected to run the city on top of two or three departments,” she said.
In an interview after the vote, Dunn, 74, said he wouldn’t have any trouble working with two council members who think he’s overpaid. “I will work carefully with each council member to address the issues that the city is facing,” he said.
Since his retirement from San Luis Obispo, Dunn also has been an interim city manager in Pismo Beach and Grover Beach.
“I have taken this job on as a challenge to assist the city to deal with the substantial financial challenges they face,” he said Tuesday.
The city faces a budget deficit projected to be about $6 million in the fiscal year that begins in July. The city has cut nearly $6 million in the past nine months in what is now a $26.5 million budget. Officials are now campaigning for Measure E, the half-cent sales tax on the June ballot.
Longtime San Luis Obispo councilman and former mayor Allan Settle said Dunn is a manager who favors two-year budgets and has coped successfully with tough economic times.
Settle said Dunn ran San Luis Obispo’s government in the early 1990s, a time of steep recession during which the state was, as it is today, taking money back from county and city governments to address its own deficit.
“He was always successful in mitigating budget shortfalls,” Settle said. “He knows his business.”
Dunn was assistant city manager of Sunnyvale from 1961 to 1965. In Monterey, he served as assistant city manager from 1967 to 1978 and city manager from 1978 to 1987.
In Rohnert Park, Dunn becomes the fifth top administrator in five years.