Richmond council votes to terminate city manager

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Carlos Martinez, (photo by Mike Kinney)

By Mike Kinney

Richmond City Council voted to terminate City Manager Carlos Martinez at Tuesday’s council meeting.

In a 4-3 vote during closed session, Councilmembers Eduardo Martinez, Demnlus Johnson III, Nat Bates and Melvin Willis voted in favor of terminating Martinez. Mayor Tom Butt and Councilmembers Ben Choi and Jael Myrick voted to retain him.

As a result of the vote, Rochelle Polk, the Community Services Director, was named Interim City Manager. She has declined the position, Mayor Tom Butt’s office reported, prompting the mayor to call for a special meeting.

Martinez, former City Manager of East Palo Alto, was selected as Richmond’s city manager in October 2018.

He quickly fell out of favor with the leadership of Richmond’s unions, which accused him of unfair labor practices and which formed a coalition calling for his ouster.  Last month, union leaders held a rally outside City Hall accusing the City Manager of misrepresenting the city’s budget deficit, and for calling for layoffs of top managers after union leaders requested their first cost of living adjustment in four years.

At the time, Martinez told council that he was considering laying off department heads as part of a reorganization recommended by an independent auditor. Martinez called the proposed reorganization an effort to streamline operations and strengthen the city’s financial position in the face of expected budget deficits in the coming years, due in large part to rising employee pension costs.

Leaders and members of the city’s multiple unions, including those representing general employees as well as police and fire personnel, publicly spoke in favor of terminating Martinez prior to council’s vote Tuesday, alleging mismanagement and a lack of communication by the city manager.

“The coalition of labor, the working people of our city, have come to the decision that we can no longer move forward in our present management situation,” said Ben Therriault, president of the Richmond Police Officers Association.

According to Don Gosney, a city insider who runs Radio Free Richmond, Martinez will receive a severance package with one year’s salary, per his contract involving involuntary termination. His five-year contract included $260,000 in annual salary and about $358,000 in total compensation.

At the council meeting, Martinez did not make a statement about the council’s decision to terminate. We’ve reached out for comment.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The original story states that Rochelle Polk was named Interim City Manager. The story has been changed to reflect updated information that Polk has declined the position.

CORRECTION: The story has since been edited to reflect the city manager’s correct severance package.

74 COMMENTS

  1. I understand the union’s concerns but what was the City manager supposed to do?

    He was acting on the advice of a well respected outside advisor on how to solve the city’s long term structural budget deficit.

    The city has already cut numerous programs and services for residents. Richmond property tax rates are among the highest in the Bay Area. The budget advisor’s conclusion that layoffs were the sole remaining option seems unarguable.

    And yet the city manager actually walked back his initial structurally balanced budget after union pressure and replaced it with one that used accounting slight of hand to close this year’s gap.

    So the unions got the budget they wanted. Richmond residents get a budget crisis pushed one year down the road and a leaderless city government. And the city manager gets fired.

    Yet another example of why we’d be much better off if Vinay Pimple was still on the council. Politics over public service wins again in Richmond.

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