– City council on Thursday will clarify the city’s manager’s
sphere of power, discuss transparency at City Hall, and decide
whether public employees can
Gilroy – City council on Thursday will clarify the city’s manager’s sphere of power, discuss transparency at City Hall, and decide whether public employees can “double dip.”
“I want the council as a whole to discuss each one of these subjects together,” Mayor Al Pinheiro said, “not just by commenting individually through the paper. This way we also get a chance to validate what we expect as far as transparency from this city.”
Pinheiro’s comments come three weeks after council held a closed session “performance evaluation” for City Administrator Jay Baksa and City Attorney Linda Callon. The job reviews, in turn, came after several weeks of controversy over Baksa and Callon’s handling of some high-profile retirements.
Baksa brokered a deal in secret that effectively doubled the earning potential of Gilroy’s top two police officials, and Callon’s firm invoked what they called “conservative” legal arguments to bar public scrutiny of the chiefs’ new employment agreements.
The retirement deals generated less controversy than the failure to notify council or rank-and-file police. The deals prompted questions about whether Baksa violated city law by failing to consult with city council on the arrangements, and whether city attorneys violated open government laws by refusing initially to release the new contract for Police Chief Gregg Giusiana and Assistant Chief Lanny Brown.
Both formally retired earlier this winter and “returned” to work – without any break in service – as part-time employees, putting them in a position to each collect more than $240,000 in pension payments and hourly wages. Such arrangements are legal under the California Public Employee Retirement System, though some have questioned the ethics of such so-called “double-dipping.”
On Thursday, council will also debate whether the city should allow the practice to continue within city limits.
“It’s the law and maybe sometimes I don’t agree with the law, but it is what it is,” said Councilman Craig Gartman. “The rules are in place that allow it. We need to ensure that when this occurs, that it’s in the best interests of the city and … that it be made public as soon as possible, so we don’t end up with this perception of a shroud of secrecy.”
Gartman was among Baksa’s most vocal critics upon learning of the formal retirements, saying the city administrator violated charter language calling for council to “advise and consent” on appointments and hires of new department heads, including police chiefs. Baksa argued the retirements only existed on paper and that had the chiefs left active service, council would have been consulted.
The different approach has led for a call to review the charter language.
“Everybody looks at it differently but in each of our minds, we’re right,” Gartman said. “We need to sit down and discuss this so that even if we have a difference of opinion, we have a clear understanding of those differences.”