(Sept. 5, 2002) -- In a specially convened City Council meeting called on 24 hours notice that lasted over four hours -- with three and a half hours in closed session -- the City Council voted 9-0 on Sept. 4 to dismiss City Manager Henry Taboada effective October 4.
The climactic Council action was announced in a statement delivered by Mayor Beverly O'Neill indicating the vote came after Mr. Taboada was offered an opportunity to retire voluntarily on or before Dec. 31, which he declined.
We post Mayor O'Neill's statement verbatim below.
After the meeting, Mayor O'Neill told LBReport.com that Mr. Taboada had not been present but had been contacted during the closed door session by cellular phone.
The Council's special closed door meeting was unlike any other in recent memory.
The Council chamber was filled to near capacity with high ranking LB city management and city staff. They included LBPD Chief Jerome Lance, LBFD Chief Terry Harbor (with numerous Fire Dept. brass), Dir. of Financial Mgt. Bob Torrez, Public Works Dir. Ed Shikada, Planning & Building Dir. Eugene Zeller, LB Energy Dir. Chris Garner, Airport Manager Chris Kunze, Parks & Rec Dir. Phil Hester, Community Development Dir. Melanie Fallon, Human Resources Director Bill Storey & Gov't Affairs Officer Carl Kemp among others.
Roughly half a dozen grassroots activists attended to observe the proceedings, which were not televised. They included Bry Myown, Diana Mann, Dan Pressburg, Alan Tolkoff, Linda Ivers and Don May. Also attending was LB Police Officers Ass'n president Steve James. Retired Deputy City Manager and ELB resident Herb Levi was also present.
To comply with CA's Brown Act (open meeting law), Councilmembers first assembled publicly, opened the meeting (at 6:00 p.m.), took public comment (included president of Latino Managers and Professionals Organization and president of Black Managers Ass'n of City of LB speaking in support of Mr. Taboada, and ECO-link's Diana Mann urging improved leadership) after which the Council recessed to its closed session at 6:30 p.m. The Mayor indicated she would return after the closed session to report publicly any reportable action taken.
Three and a half hours passed and about 200 of the original attendees left.
Then, at roughly 10:10 p.m., Councilmembers, the Mayor and City Attorney filed back into the Council chamber. They were grim faced.
After taking their seats, some Councilmembers appeared not even to look at one another.
The audience fell into a hush as the Mayor, appearing emotionally spent from the ordeal, read from a written statement:
"For the past three and a half hours, the City Council has evaluated and deliberated on the performance of Henry Taboada as City Manager. During the course of the deliberations, Mr. Taboada was offered an opportunity to voluntarily retire on or before December 31st. He declined that offer and the Council resumed deliberation. After deliberating, the Council voted unanimously to dismiss Henry Taboada as City Manager effective October 4th. This has been communicated to Mr. Taboada.
[end written statement, Mayor speaks extemporaneously] "This was a very difficult thing for any Council, and especially this Council, to be involved with. We took it very seriously. There was a great deal of discussion by the Council, many deliberations, many comments, and it was not an easy thing to do."
The Mayor's statement did not cite a reason for the Council's action. After the meeting, City Attorney Bob Shannon told LBReport.com no reason would be given and noted Mr. Taboada is an "at will" employee. Mr. Shannon also indicated that Mr. Taboada will be paid $120,000 pursuant to his employment agreement, a sum to which he is legally entitled for being involuntarily dismissed.
The dismissal becomes effective in 30 days, meaning Mr. Taboada remains City Manager now...and will be City Manager during upcoming Council budget deliberations that are expected to be unusually difficult due to a mounting deficit (gap between City Hall spending and revenue).
City Attorney Shannon indicated Mr. Taboada will remain City Manager until October 4th, at which time pursuant to the City Charter, the Assistant City Manager automatically becomes the acting City Manager.
After the meeting, Mayor O'Neill told reporters, "Everyone was civil. The discussion was orderly. There were differing opinions."
Although no reason was given for the Council's action, it caps a tumultuous three weeks that began on August 15 when the Mayor, flanked by the City Manager, released the Manager's proposed FY 02-03 budget which is balanced...but using one-time resources to bridge a growing $46 million deficit (gap between revenue and spending). Mr. Taboada had previously warned the Council in writing (as reported by LBReport.com) that City Hall spending was exceeding revenue by increasingly large sums, which the City Manager attributed in part to the economic downturn following Sept. 11/01.
Over the past week and a half, a series of newspaper opinion/perspective pieces have sandpapered Mr. Taboada. Long Beach Business Journal publisher George Economides blasted the increasing number of City Hall personnel making over $100,000 a year, citing management raises awarded by Mr. Taboada within the current budget. Press-Telegram columnist Tom Hennessy referenced Economides' piece and called on Mr. Taboada to resign or be removed. The PT ran its own editorial, criticizing the Council for not controlling spending but stopping short of urging Taboada's removal.
At the Council's regularly scheduled Sept. 3 Council meeting, Councilman Dan Baker made a motion to call a special meeting of the Council the next day to evaluate Mr. Taboada's performance. Baker's motion carried 6-3 with Vice Mayor Frank Colonna and Councilmembers Dennis Carroll and Tonia Reyes-Uranga dissenting, noting Mr. Taboada was scheduled for a performance review in October.
Meanwhile, in a late breaking development just hours before the Council's closed session, Mr. Taboada's office released a four page memorandum responding to allegations by City Auditor Gary Burroughs, made to the Council and the public, that claimed Mr. Taboada had violated the City Charter in removing budget increases the Auditor had included in his budget for additional staff and salary increases.
In a September 4 memo to the Mayor and City Council, City Manager Taboada blasts City Auditor Burroughs. Some excerpts:
"[B]urroughs attempted to somehow rationalize that his confusion over the way the budget numbers are presented in the budget book is akin to the recent scandals involving fraud in the private sector. This is pure smoke and mirrors and borders on slander. I might point our that the private sector scandals have also hit the audit world, with Arthur Andersen and its audits, the subject of Federal review...
It is unfortunate that the stress of the City's budget situation has made the budget an emotional issue for some. Nonetheless, I take personal offense with Burroughs' remarks. His remarks are misleading, unprofessional and uncalled for."