WatchSonoma Watch

Three Santa Rosa councilmembers boycott hiring process


Three members of the Santa Rosa City Council boycotted a special meeting called Friday to conduct additional telephone interviews with city manager candidates.

Jane Bender, John Sawyer, and Ernesto Olivares did not attend the closed-door session that began around 12:25 p.m. at City Hall.

The boycott follows two previous special meetings to discuss filling the post that resulted in some or all of the three council members walking out before the meetings adjourned.

While the three have not publicly explained the reasons behind their actions, sources say they oppose hiring a new permanent city manager now, preferring to wait until after the November election, when three of the seven council seats are up for grabs

The three, who are generally considered to be the council’s more business-friendly members, often constitute a minority voting bloc on key city government issues.

“This was not done as a protest. This was not done out of anger. I was very clear that I was not going to participate in this interview,” Bender said.

Sawyer and Olivares also said they made it clear to their colleagues that they would not be participating in the latest meeting.

“It will be no surprise to them that I was not going to be participating in the subsequent interviews of the candidates,” Sawyer said.

After the fourth council member arrived at the meeting, Mayor Susan Gorin announced the council had a quorum and closed the doors to the public.

The meeting lasted about an hour and a half, no action was taken, and the discussion will continue at Tuesday’s regular meeting, she said

“We’re continuing the conversation and trying to bring the council together to try to figure out where we’re going,” Gorin said.

The council is trying to find a replacement for Jeff Kolin, who left in January to become city manager in Beverly Hills.
Interim City Manager Wayne Goldberg, the city’s former advanced planning director, has said he not interested in staying in the post beyond mid-summer.

21 Responses to “Three Santa Rosa councilmembers boycott hiring process”

  1. Phil says:

    Bender, Sawyer and Olivarez are not doing their job. Their attitude seems to be one of holding their collective breath and throwing a tantrum until they get their way. They are the minority-deal with it! It doesn’t give them the right to abdicate the jobs they were voted in for. AS a taxpayer it bugs me that they are getting paid but not working! IF they won’t go to meetings and work with the other council members then they should resign!

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  2. L Cramer says:

    Jeff Korin left in January 2010. If the city waits until the new council is seated in January 2011 before going through the winnowing process of selecting a manager, it will be (at least) June 2011 before a new hire starts.

    Is the position that inconsequential the city can go 18 months without a permanent chief operating officer? And, as others have pointed out, the odds are come January next the council will be as divided as ever.

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  3. Noah says:

    Jim V, perhaps I should be clearer for you. I don’t know WHO is right or wrong, because I lack sufficient information. That, on my part, is an enlightened position to take; it is better to say I don’t know than make up stuff. It is quite different from knowing WHAT is right or wrong.

    In asking you for more information, I was honestly asking you to communicate so I could understand your point of view given that I do not think like you. In finding out how you thought, I was open to changing my mind or becoming clearer in my own opinion. I was being consistent with my sense that we all need to do more listening and have a better style of communicating in order to get along with each other.

    Your retort was either completely off the point or purposely nasty. This is something that I have experienced before, mostly from people who listen to Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, etc. It seems some folks would rather call others names than provide information or have an open conversation about different ways to view things.

    Jim, I’m trying to get out of my comfort zone and find out what it is that you really want in order to use my tools (logic and empathy) the best I can to make things better for all of us.

    We can’t ask others (the city council) to do what we are not willing to do ourselves.

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  4. Beef King says:

    First, I would like to congratulate Jeff Korin on his flight from office. I’m sure he is more relaxed in Beverly Hills.
    Imagine being a potential candidate for this job…..
    On one hand I agree that the walkout is wrong, due to the fact that the three who missed the interview might have also missed interviewing a great candidate.
    On the other hand, we haven’t heard the reasoning for the walkout from the boycott trio, and I for one would like to hear their reasons before I condemn them to the stack of politicians who have been removed from office.
    Well PD, can we get more info??
    For example, I would like to know who decides which candidates are to be interviewed? A committee? Human Resources? Who?

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  5. Jim V. says:

    Noah, for someone who doesn’t know what is right and wrong, you sure do a lot of reading into stuff. I don’t need you to validate my opinion, so if you don’t understand why city manager turnover occurs with council majority switches, tough noogies.

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  6. Geoff Johnson says:

    The Labor/Demo “progressives” have had a 4/3 majority on the SR Council for a year and a half, and the Council has muddled along pretty much as usual. Now suddenly there’s a crisis.

    Bender, Sawyer, and Olivares don’t want the present Council to hire a new, permanent City Manager to replace Jeff Kolin. Friday’s editorial said the Council was bitterly divided, and it supported the minority.

    We’re told that the minority wants next year’s Council to hire a new CM. But there’s no reason to believe that next year’s Council will be any different–unless the Developer/Business machine has already lined up at least two strong, well-financed candidates to run in November.

    As it stands now, based on the announced canidates, the likely winners in November are incumbent Mayor Gorin, PC member Scott Bartley (replacing Bender), and either incumbent Veronica Jacobi, or new progressive candidate Rick Meechan. No change in the 4/3 split.

    So the point may be the PD’s editorial suggestion, to “hire someone to come in on an interim basis”. Do I recall correctly, that the minority wanted to hire Deputy CM Greg Scoles to replace Kolin, but the majority voted instead to hire Wayne Goldberg for now, and recruit a new CM from outside?

    Maybe the people behind Bender, Sawyer, and Olivares, and the PD, want to hire Scoles to replace Goldberg now; and maybe they have a plan to elect Bartley, and at least one other new candidate in November–and to make Scoles’ appointment permanent next year.

    One thing’s pretty clear right now. The Brown Act allows secret closed meetings only to consider the applicants’ relative merits.

    If the Council wants to talk about how and when to hire a new CM, they’ll have to do that at an open and public meeting.

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  7. George says:

    Pretty arrogant of Sawyer, Bender and Olivares. When they were in the majority they did not hesitate to inflict their policies and hires on the minority. Now that the shoes on the other foot, they act like spoiled sulky children. I hope Mayor Gorin grows a spine and tells them to get back to the work they were elected for.And I hope someone witholds their 300 stipend until they put in the time they are being paid for. I am not voting for any of these “Pro-Business” jokers in Novemeber. In business, you do the work you are hired and paid for, you don’t take your marbles and run home when you don’t get your way.

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  8. Noah says:

    Jim V-do you really think they’re leaving meetings early and refusing to operate with the other council members because they’re being thoughtful for whoever may be the next city manager? OR because they don’t want a new hire to be rejected by the next city council?

    Oh, we should all be governed by such selfless civil servants. I don’t believe that for a moment.

    I can see though, how absolutely maddening it must be to know you are right and to be thwarted by someone you know is wrong. “Why don’t those morons get it,” and “I cannot wait another day until these people are properly thrown out of office like they should be” would be the thoughts running through their minds. The trouble is, it is the same level of thinking from both sides of the city council.

    I ca’t say which side is right or wrong. I have my own agenda, but I don’t live here by myself. I want help for working people, but we need businesses and employers too.

    “Sick and Tired” is right. There is a middle ground. It’s called listening, bargaining, compromising. I learned the value of sharing and taking turns in the sandbox in Kindergarten.

    Apparently, actually considering someone else’s opinion to be VALID requires more courage and intelligence than is prevalent on our city council, and on our streets. Without that ability, we will just keep trading sides in an unending and self-sabotaging war of egos. Sheesh.

    So, Jim V, please explain your thinking so I can validate your opinion. What you said does not make sense to me. I think they are saying they can’t work with the progressives (if true) on the council. Why would they (the 3 absent councilmembers) wait for the next city council in order to be thoughtful for the next city manager?

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  9. Jim V. says:

    Noah, they’re not waiting for November to become the majority–they waiting for the benefit of the next city manager to avoid a firing. That’s thoughtful.

    L Cramer, you’re not affected by a second interim manager filing in for a few months, so as Frankie says, relax.

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  10. sick and tired says:

    good grief! All of the commenters here who have classified various council members as either pro-business or anti-business just sound like mimics of the Press Democrat. there are problems on “both sides of the aisle.” But to have councilmembers disengage from process does not serve the citizens of Santa Rosa. Why are some of our “leaders” so power-hungry, so factional? THERE IS A MIDDLE, SOMEWHERE.

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  11. L Cramer says:

    While it’s probably true a wise manager candidate will decline a job offer from a one-vote council majority, does that mean the majority–and citizens–should just live with rotating temp managers until a decisive election takes place?

    Whatever the political advantages to the minority (maybe none), this is a terrible example of how city government works today. At some point, government must function. A 4-3 decision on a manager, even one I don’t like, is better than no decision.

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  12. Voice of reason says:

    It’s clear that Gary Wysocky is a bully and isn’t listening to 3 council members. He inappropriately reported out of a closed session just one thing, that some members left early from the last meeting. What else happened at that meeting? If it’s a closed session, then he violated that. Gary has previously stated publicly, that the only number that counts is four. Hopefully, after November he’ll be in a minority position and will have to eat those words. Personally, I think these meetings should be open, I’d like to see and hear from the applicants and weigh in on them. I believe that the 4 are trying to put someone in that’s a carbon copy of Wayne Goldberg who the 4 rammed through against the other 3′s objections in the first place. True to form, they have no tolerance for anyone’s opinion if it differs from their own. As a leader in the smart-growth anti-business crowd, Gary is a trouble maker and extremely uncooperative. I look forward to voting him out in two years.

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  13. Noah says:

    So it’s “if I don’t get my way I’m gonna take my marbles and go home?” Nice. How about showing us how we can grow up by you doing it yourself, city council?

    To Bender, Sawyer, Olivares and all the other pro-business righteous folks: what makes you think you’ll be the majority in the next election, and if so, by how much? What are you going to do then, ignore a razor-thin minority who didn’t vote for you and just do whatever you want? I think we’ve already had enough of that for the last couple of decades.

    How about trying on a new management style, one that is actually inclusive? Then maybe we could get some stuff done. You’re supposed to be leaders. Time to start leading.

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  14. Christian says:

    Does the current council majority of 4 have the power to appoint a new City Manager without the support of the minority?

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  15. Doris says:

    This sort of behavior is incredible. Why do the tax payers of Santa Rosa put up with this sort of garbage? This council spends like the state legislature, and has an attitude to boot! Time for a change—get rid of these slackers.

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  16. Mike says:

    A well qualified City Manager applicant would not take a job with a 4-3 vote going in. Why not wait until after the November election? Hire another acting City Manager from the retired list at the League of California Cities. Santa Rosa needs adults in the role of City Council members, not bickering children.

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  17. L Cramer says:

    Oh my! Not even attend meetings? However generally sympathetic I may be to Bender, et al, they’re behaving badly.

    The council has a responsibility to fill this vacancy in a timely manner. When they began the process the forthcoming election was on the calendar. The date hasn’t changed.

    If they thought no decision was appropriate until the new council is seated, why waste 6 months of time and who knows how much money on the search? It makes no sense.

    Obviously, this is about a majority choosing someone the minority opposes. Heck, maybe I won’t like them either. But elections have consequences. Live with them, and grow up.

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  18. Jim V. says:

    Why hire a city manager when s/he could be fired if the majority changes in November? Bender, Olivares, and Sawyer are smarter than the anti-business majority.

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  19. Council Watcher says:

    The Santa Rosa City Council is clueless. The pro “green” anti business folks vs. the pro “green” pro business group are at it again. Vice Major Wysocky threw down on the other side by bring up at a public meeting that the other side walked out on a special meeting. Interesting move if you are trying to bring folk together. Insiders have know for years now that Wysocky is wound tight and he took the bait and now looks like a bully. Score one for the pro business folks. Acting city manager Goldberg who could careless if either side was in control wants out. The anti business folks are now making the pro business folks look petty by not participating in council work. Councilmember Bender is angry, who cares do your job. Score one for the anti business folks. Bottom line this council is not setup to work, thanks voters. One council member is borderline dysfunctional. Well maybe two or three should not be up there. They all act like not to smart middle school teens, well all but one maybe two.

    This year’s city council race will be interesting and hopefully entertaining. With any luck the economy will improve that this ship of fools can start spending our money on their pet projects (bike boulevards, squares, art). In the meantime don’t look to the Santa Rosa’s City Council for leadership. Bon Voyage.

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  20. SF says:

    It is too bad that the council is not working together for the common goal of SR- impoving its economy! Bender, Sawyer and Olivares are the most well respected members of the council, and if they are not attending the meeting, it makes me wonder what is really happening behind the closed doors containing the council members that are not business friendly.

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  21. Scott Baley says:

    This is awful. They are not elected to serve their own petty interests. They should resign if they don’t want to attend meetings and do their jobs. Bender, Olivares, and Sawyer are just the represent the absolute worst politicians ever. Go to the meetings and do your jobs or quit.

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