By KEVIN MCCALLUM
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
A divided Santa Rosa City Council voted Tuesday to hire the long-time city manager of Clovis as its new top executive, ending a bitter council feud over whether enough qualified candidates applied for the job.
By a vote of 4-3, the council appointed Kathy Millison to the city manager post vacated when Jeff Kolin left in January for the top job in Beverly Hills.
City Attorney Caroline Fowler announced the results of the vote after the council emerged from a closed session, a decision she said was “subject to reaching contract terms with her.”
Voting in favor of Millison were Mayor Susan Gorin, Vice-mayor Gary Wysocky, Veronica Jacob, and Marsha Vas Dupre. Voting against the selection were Jane Bender, John Sawyer and Ernesto Olivares.
The decision brings the council one step closer to getting past the rancor that erupted over whether to hire a full-time city manager or an interim person until the hiring climate for the city improves.
Those who supported Millison have praised her as a strong, experienced candidate with a record of sound fiscal stewardship of Clovis, the city of 95,000 people just east of Fresno she has headed for 19 years.
The three voting against her have all said they do not feel the hiring process attracted enough qualified candidates. They attribute this to the council majority’s previous decision to pass over Deputy City Manager Greg Scoles in favor of former advance planning director Wayne Goldberg for the interim city manager job. They say that sent a message to the network of city managers statewide that Santa Rosa would be a difficult place to work.
They also argue the city risks paying Millison a large severance should the balance of power shift in the November elections, when three council seats are up for grabs.
The details of those and other contract provisions were unknown Tuesday because Fowler refused to release the terms of the job offer to Millison. The contract will be made available in advance of next Tuesday’s council meeting, when the council is set to formally approve it, she said.
The council’s decision followed a visit that Gorin and Vas Dupre made to Clovis last week. The pair interviewed dozens of staff, council members, business and community leaders, and they were virtually unanimous in their praise of Millison, Gorin said
“We didn’t really even get a hint of any potential negatives,” Gorin said.
Millison was city manager in 1996 when the FBI indicted several Clovis and Fresno council members on bribery charges. The council members “were willing to take bribes for favorable action on pending rezoning proposals,” according to the FBI.
But Gorin said the probe never involved staff. Millison reportedly cooperated fully in the case and worked hard to repair the damage, Gorin said.
The fact that she survived that tumult is a testament to her skills and character, and one reason Gorin thinks she’ll well equipped to work with the current split council, Gorin said.