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City manager search reveals splits on Santa Rosa council

Gary Wysocky


The depth of the divisions riving the Santa Rosa City Council as it searches for a new city manager became even clearer this week.

Several council members walked out of two recent closed-door meetings held to discuss the hiring of a new city manager, Vice Mayor Gary Wysocky disclosed Tuesday at the weekly City Council meeting.

His remarks came during a normally routine vote to approve the minutes of previous meetings. Wysocky asked the clerk to correct the minutes of two prior special meetings to reflect that several council members left before the sessions were adjourned.

The first was the all-day meeting at the Hyatt Vineyard Creek Hotel and Spa on May 28, when council members interviewed several job candidates.

Wysocky asked the clerk to change the minutes of that meeting to reflect the fact that Jane Bender, Ernesto Olivares and John Sawyer left prior to its conclusion.

The second was a follow-up special meeting the council had in the mayor’s conference room on June 2 to continue discussing the issue.

Wysocky asked the clerk to change the minutes of that meeting to show that Bender and Olivares left before it had concluded.

“I want the record to be accurate,” Wysocky said afterwards. “This is an important issue.”

The departures provide further evidence that the council is profoundly divided over whether to hire a permanent city manager or whether to scrap the current search and start looking for an interim city manager, according to sources.

Some council members believe it would be better to wait until after the November elections to hire a permanent city manager. Three council seats are up for grabs in the fall.

The three council members who left the meetings gave various reasons for their departures.

Sawyer said he left the first meeting because he felt further participation would have been futile.

“We did leave before the meeting was adjourned because it was clear that our need to participate at that point had ended,” Sawyer said. “We didn’t storm out.”

Bender said she was unaware that other council members continued on with the meeting after she left.

“I thought we were done,” Bender said. “I would not characterize it as walking out of a meeting,”

Olivares, too, said he considered the meeting over when the group left.

“I felt there was nothing more to contribute to the meeting,” he said.

By several accounts, the second meeting was more heated and the walkouts more deliberate.

Both Bender and Olivares said there was no mistaking the fact that they were leaving in the midst of the meeting in protest.

“I left because of the offensive nature of the conversation and I didn’t want to be there any longer,” Olivares said.

Bender said her decision to leave the meeting early was “conscious and deliberate.”

All three council members declined to discuss the nature of the deliberations that caused them to depart the meetings.

Mayor Susan Gorin downplayed the importance of Wysocky’s amendments to the minutes and said she regretted council members were speaking about a process that is supposed to be confidential.

“The council is working deliberatively and carefully in confidence to make the best choice for the city manager right now,” Gorin said. “It’s really difficult to choose a city manager in this budget environment and we want to make sure that we get it right.”

The council is next scheduled to discuss the issue in closed session on Tuesday, but another special meeting before then is possible, Gorin said.

12 Responses to “City manager search reveals splits on Santa Rosa council”

  1. Noah says:

    The split council is a mirror of the split community. How can we expect council members of either stripe (business/development or workers/enviros) to run a successful council when they are torn by increasingly strident supporters and detractors? I think it is we who are to blame.

    As for city managers being fired and the present council’s difficulty in hiring, there is always a balance of power in a political structure. In Santa Rosa, it used to reside much with the city manager. Now warring factions have taken more and the city manager’s job is less powerful. No wonder strong managers don’t want to be in here.

    Maybe we can advocate for smaller, local businesses rather than huge corporations, and bring back more jobs and more business owners. That’s a development plan this lefty enviro could get behind. And maybe that would result in a more amenable community.

    We should heavily prosecute conflicts of interest among our council members and supervisors, and fine the crap out of them or jail them when they are proven guilty. Those elective positions should be for public service, not personal enrichment. That’s change I could hope for.

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  2. Rob Lee says:

    Being the top vote-getter has NOTHING to do with performance on the city council since the election. Don’t forget, George W. Bush was the top vote getter in 2004.

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  3. Jared says:

    The realistic description of Wysocky is under “The Real Problem,” NOT “Brass Tacks.” Voters have made a lot of mistakes that are apparent after the fact. He’s one of them.

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  4. Brass Tacks says:

    Gary Wysocky is a breath of fresh air on the council. He is decisive, articulate, and hard-working. We’re going to benefit from his presence on the council as long as he wants to serve. Don’t forget, he was the top vote-getter in this last election.

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  5. L Cramer says:

    Rob Lee, that Greg Scoles is still around is the surprise.

    Yes, the city manager is subject to being fired at the whim of a council majority. It happens too often. But it shouldn’t. The manager should be an efficient non-partisan administer, not an instrument of whichever faction controls the council.

    What people want out of local government is pretty simple: safe parks, well-maintained infrastructure, filled potholes, and efficient use of taxpayer money. The stuff beyond that just gets in the way.

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  6. Scott Baley says:

    The three council members who refuse to do their jobs need to be recalled. Sawyer, Bender, and Olivares need to stop being such partisans and work with the other council members.

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  7. The Real Problem says:

    Gary Wysocky is a bully, plain and simple. His treatment of other Council members and city employees during meetings is abhorrent, and his boorish nature leads to a completely non-productive atmosphere.

    He is followed like a puppy by Veronica Jacobi, who might as well not even show up she is so clueless. Unless the topic is climate change, she has her head in the clouds.

    Mayor Gorin is not incompetent. She is, however, a victim of Wysocky’s bullying. She tries to play den mother of the Council and be nice to everyone, but it’s time that someone shut him down. If the Mayor won’t do it, I’m sure that the voters can find someone who will. Madame Mayor, it’s time to step up or pack up.

    The Santa Rosa City Council needs members who look out for Santa Rosa. The environment, etc are important, but the SR Council needs to focus on LOCAL issues. If Wysocky has no one to succumb to his bullying, he will be a lame duck. Come November, I hope to see a Council who will focus on the important LOCAL issues, and find creative ways to breathe financial life into our city that will be both responsible and profitable!

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  8. Rob Lee says:

    L Cramer, I agree that Greg Scoles should have been hired months ago.

    The city manager’s political ideology DOES matter. If the current environmental/neighborhood/union majority hires a city manager and the majority changes to a business-friendly majority in November, that city manager could be ousted easily. City managers are fired all the time following elections. I’m hoping the majority chances back to a business-friendly council so the city can make some money with economic development. Wysocky, Vas Dus Dupre, and Jacobi are killing us.

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  9. rosealani says:

    Wysocky is the councilmember with any brains in the group and Susan
    Gorin is a poor excuse for a leader. She continues to promote her own agenda and pretty much just wants everyone to play nice. The woman is no leader, she needs to learn to make decisions.

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  10. L Cramer says:

    I guess the idea that a city manager should first and foremost be a competent administer is outdated with this council. His or her politics shouldn’t matter. After all, a manager implements policy decisions of the council.

    What’s happening here is obvious. No manager will be hired that doesn’t first pass a test for political purity.

    In a sane world, Greg Scoles would have been quickly hired. The city would now be money ahead and be, presumably, far along with plans to solve its problems. Instead, we get a cat fight.

    To state the obvious: we get the government we elect, nor should it surprise anyone why Santa Rosa is a financial mess.

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  11. Fed UP says:

    We can hardly wait for a new Council in November. What a disjointed Council. The problem is that they are only thinking of themselves and not the people they represent. Why continue to report on them? Perhaps they could be reported in the “funnies”. Don’t they have a clue that the citizens of SR are simply laughing at them. It is truly too bad.

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  12. James says:

    Gary Wysocky needs to be recalled. He causes so many problems in so many ways.

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