WatchSonoma Watch

Rohnert Park changes rules to make it easier to fire future department heads


The Rohnert Park City Council authorized a change to the city’s employment rules Tuesday, making it much easier for the city manager to fire future department heads.

The decision means that all future executive level staff will be at-will employees. Currently, they work under for-cause agreements that require a lengthy process before someone can be dismissed.

City Manager Gabe Gonzalez had proposed the move saying it would give him — and his successors — the ability to react quickly when changes needed to be made.

“Significant deficiencies in performance or breakdowns in the team relationships at this level constitute a very real threat to the organization’s well being, “ he told the council.

The council agreed unanimously (Councilman Joe Callinan was absent).

“It gives the city manager more ability to manage his or her staff and keep the performance level of the department heads at the very highest level,” said Councilman Amy Ahanotu.

One of of the city’s four department heads, Public Safety Director Brian Masterson, was made an at-will employee in 2010, a change which meant that his contract was renegotiated to include a 6-month severance payment in the event he is let go.

The new policy applies only to future hires, but the three other top level staffers can now opt to become at-will employees. If they do, they must be allowed to negotiate new contracts to include severance payments or other elements to compensate for the loss of the considerable job security that for-cause agreements provide.

The council would have to approve those contracts, as well as those for future department heads.

“I think this is a natural evolution” from the change made to Masterson’s employment terms, said Councilman Jake Mackenzie.

You can reach Staff Writer Jeremy Hay at 521-5212 or jeremy.hay@pressdemocrat.com.

6 Responses to “Rohnert Park changes rules to make it easier to fire future department heads”

  1. David Stubblebine says:

    @Snarky: I’m not sure how an article about Rohnert Park managers got turned into an alleged police scandal at SRJC, but the “years long theft of public money” did not happen “right under the ‘chiefs’ nose.” Chief McCaffrey was appointed in October 2012 and the officer was arrested in November. I know it is against your creed, but would it kill you to do a minimum of fact checking before you post your vitriol?

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  2. bear says:

    Let me help out.

    Virtually all government managers serve under contracts that allow dismissal at any time for little or no reason.

    These managers control staff. So if some brilliant staff member came up with a brilliant solution to some problem, it would have to get past management – at the control of elected officials – to even be a subject of public discussion.

    Only “elected officials” – NOT necessarily smart enough to cross a street – control the managers and anything that comes from staff.

    So this is a blatant attempt to do exactly what happens in Santa Rosa and County government.

    Geeze, there are smart staff people in city and county governments. This is exactly how smart thinking is crushed by political hacks.

    It works exactly the same way in state and federal governments.

    I want some support here!

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  3. Caller says:

    When I read the first few paragraphs I was thinking it was a bad idea since one bitter city manager could ruin the livelihood of experienced, competent department heads, but as long as there is a robust severance package then it seems reasonable.

    I’d like Robert to tell us how many city and county employees are fired each month… since I know it to be rare for permanent employees not within their initial probation period.

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  4. Robert says:

    Sounds like the usual power grab. “Do it my way and agree with me, or you are gone”. That’s the kind of dictator attitude needed to deal with those working in the rodent.

    If the last poster only knew how many employees are fired at the city and county levels each month, they might change their name from the “Real Truth” to, “I heard this one time from a guy on the radio”.

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  5. Snarky says:

    Real Truth said, “Cities, counties and the state breed mediocrity ..”

    And they thumb their noses at you buddy. Their arrogance is the worst of it.

    Look at the Santa Rosa College Police Chief… he apparently gets to keep his cozy little job despite one of his “sworn” officers being accused of years long theft of public money right under the “chiefs” nose.

    Since that Santa Rosa junior college cop is currently being prosecuted for years long thefts, should not the immediate police chief be fired for incompetence?

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  6. Real Truth says:

    This is a matter of concern at all levels of employment. Cities, counties and the state breed mediocrity since it is virtually impossible to get rid of employees who are not meeting standards. Why should they operate differently from the rest of the world — especially when they are being paid by taxpayers? This is a good first step.

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