After Friday’s news that city manager candidate Regan Candelario had taken the city manager position at Fortuna, it appears to leave only Robert Gorson, Jr., formerly of Taft as the lone candidate. No one seems to know for sure if Gorson ever took a job in Los Angeles County.
After it was discovered that Gorson had an eventful past to say the least while at Taft, public perception is that this was never considered a red flag to the council. The group of applicants was narrowed down from 63 to two with the help of Avery & Associates consultant, Paul Kimura.
“We are in the final stages of discussions,” said Interim City Manager Roger Wong. “We better not share anything at this point. We wanted to honor the process with public interviews, but that scares some candidates off.”
Wong noted that when another city sees a current employee doing public interviews in a different city, it does not bode well for long-term employment if the job offer does not work out. Currently, the City is in final negotiations to hire the next city manager.
“It makes it difficult,” said Wong. “I’m hoping some decisions will be made. We might have to start from scratch if the offer isn’t accepted. We should know soon enough.”
If Gorson never took the job in LA, then it appears he would be the City’s next city manager. This is all speculation of course, as the City is keeping tight-lipped about the decision that will soon be announced, most likely at Thursday’s council meeting.
Mayor Jan Vick, Vice Mayor Jack Krebs and Councilmember Connie Boulware could not be reached for comment about the city manager position. Janith Norman, however was reached, but had little to say about the current situation at City Hall.
“I do not want to respond because the process is confidential,” said Norman. “As far as I know, we still have the same candidates. We’ve interviewed two finalists, and that’s all I can say.”
Norman noted that the City Attorney advised against releasing any current information, as this is a personnel matter and all discussion remains in closed session. To date, there has been nothing reported out of closed session.
“I don’t have anything from the city manager,” said Norman. “This will be discussed in detail at Thursday’s council meeting.”
While the public remains in the dark of the decision the council has made, e-mails are flying throughout the region about Gorson and his tenure while at Taft. While some say that he was the best thing to ever happen to the City, others swear that there was corruption and cronyism involved – including a $200,000 investment that Gorson placed with another fellow councilmember – unbeknownst to the City.
“I’ve heard the rumors,” said Wong. “We take a look at the candidate’s background. We don’t concentrate on it until the near end. We look at job performance from the last job, and how large of a budget they are used to dealing with.”
This comes from Grand Jury Reports in 2010 that name Gorson to have been involved in the improper use of public funds. While this was never substantiated, it raises alarms that the current trend of late at City Hall could continue. The hiring of the City’s newest city manager has been anything but transparent, as the public struggles to grasp what is actually happening within the City and to taxpayer monies.
Last week’s special meeting was cancelled due to Internet failure, as the City’s server was down. This would have caused a Brown Act violation if the meeting had gone on without it being posted on the City website.
“Our IT consultant was out of town,” said Wong. “We had to cancel in order not to violate the Brown Act.”
A budget session meeting will be held tomorrow at 1:30 to discuss this year’s finances and the potential budget deficit that is looming. While numbers of as much as $800,000 in the hole have been rumored, no exact number has been stated until now. Wong explained the deficit has been cut down to around $397,000.
“All cities are struggling because expenses are going up,” said Wong. “We are looking to plug this deficit with zero based budgeting. We are looking for ways to generate more revenue. I will recommend that the council come back in a month or two and see what can be cut.”
While Wong explained that no one likes to cut anything, it is a reality- and that things aren’t getting any better anytime soon. To fix the structural deficit, he said things will need to get cut that are still essential to the town.
Wong also discussed that he is getting help from outside sources to bring in financial help to deal with the current burden the City is afflicted with. He also noted that Interim Finance Manager Mary Lee Scharer is doing an excellent job, despite little City accounting experience.
“Sometimes the wrong accounts get charged,” said Wong. “You’ve got be able to charge the right account.”
The council has still not formerly discussed the Solano County Grand Jury Report, as the City has 90 days to respond to the findings. It was to be discussed at the previous meeting, but it was cancelled at literally the last minute – 2 p.m. when the meeting was to take place at 5:30 p.m. later that afternoon.
“The City Council will be able to weigh in on what’s going on, and what they want to do,” said Wong.
The City is required to respond to mainly budgeting and finance issues- including the withholding of $139,000 of CDBG federal grant money. Wong noted that it might not be worth appealing the decision to withhold that money, as HCD has already issued the City the check for the remainder of the grant.
The City Council meeting is sure to be a big one, as all residents are encouraged to attend. It will take place at City Hall at 7 p.m. on Thursday, July 5.