Anaheim Insider Here.
What’s the most common word around Anaheim City Hall these days?
If you guessed “homeless,” you’re probably right. But a close second is “Interim.”
Anaheim has a Council-Manager form of government in which the professional City Staff receive policy direction from the elected City Council and carry out the day-to-day affairs of the City. In fact, the Anaheim City Charter specifically prohibits the Mayor and City Council from interfering in the day-to-day administration of the City, and limits the number of City employees who report directly to the Council to only three – the City Manager, the City Attorney, and the City Clerk.
So, it says a lot about how bad things have gotten in Anaheim under the Tait-Moreno regime that all three of those positions bear the “Interim” tag. That’s right – for the first time anyone can recall in Anaheim’s history, the City is being run by an Interim City Manager, Interim City Attorney, and an Interim City Clerk.
Of course, the current Interim City Manager, Linda Andal, was elevated to the post from the City Clerk job after the Council voted to fire Paul Emery. And while Andal by most accounts is a perfectly nice person and was an very good City Clerk, her elevation to Interim City Manager came, our sources tell us, after several more prominent City Department heads turned down the position and the City Council could not agree on others. While Andal was indeed an excellent City Clerk, going from supervising a staff of 15 to becoming CEO of a billion-dollar municipal corporation is a big leap. This was apparent at last week’s Council meeting when City Council members repeatedly noted that Assistant City Manager Kristine Ridge – who was absent to attend a conference – was the City’s point person on several issues and unavailable to answer questions.
Andal’s ascension to Interim Manager also created a vacancy at City Clerk, now filled by Acting City Clerk Theresa Bass, at a time where public scrutiny of city government has risen to an all-time high and the City ‘s chief records keeper and answerer of Public Records Act request bears the “Interim” tag.
More importantly, the City Attorney position has been vacant for 16 months. The new Council majority, eager to flex their muscle, fired former City Attorney Arturo N. Fierro just before Christmas and just weeks after his appointment. Kristin A. Pelletier, who had served as Acting City Attorney for several months before Fierro’s appointment, was pressed back into the role, where she has continued this whole year. Our sources tell us Pelletier has no interest in the permanent job, and the City Council has finally begun to search for a permanent replacement earnestly.
Anaheim City Attorney is a plumb job. That it has remained vacant almost a year and half speaks volumes about how the chaos in City Hall. The fact that Tait-Moreno council majority they fired the last City Attorney a few weeks after he was hired is probably making it hard to attract top-notch candidates. Who knows how long it will take to fill the City Manager position?
But the instability in Anaheim goes deeper the climate at City Hall under Tait-Moreno has been suffused with the kind of uncertainty, and tension that Anaheim has largely avoided for decades. The most recent and prominent example is the open warfare between Police Chief Raul Quezada and the Anaheim Police Association, who overwhelmingly voted “no confidence” in the Chief and recommended his immediate removal.
But even beyond this, I can recall the sadly bygone days when being a department head in a big, vibrant, exciting city like Anaheim was better than being the City Manager in other cities. Or when being the number two in a department in Anaheim was a bigger plum job that being the number one elsewhere. This is no longer the case in Tait-Moreno “Unstableheim.”
Take the recent departure of Jonathan Borrego, the former number two man in the Anaheim Planning Department and widely recognized as one of the best municipal planners in California. Borrego staffed the Anaheim Planning Commission and helped oversee a department that had attracted billions in private investment. Borrego left last month to become the Planning Director in Oceanside.
Oceanside is a perfectly fine medium-sized city. But the Planning Director job in Oceanside entails such creative jobs as redeveloping strip malls and some infill housing projects. The number two job in Anaheim oversees billion-dollar theme park expansions, the buildout of the Platinum Triangle, possible development of a new Angels Baseball Stadium and the surrounding parking lot, just to name but a few.
That a quality civic servant like Borrego would leave Anaheim for Oceanside is a huge win for Oceanside, and probably Borrego’s sanity, but clearly represents a flight of top talent from the toxic environment at City Hall under Tait-Moreno.
Several other senior officials have recently left the Anaheim Public Utilities Department, the number two and three officials at Economic & Community Development are also gone, as has the top staffer at the Anaheim Workforce Investment Board.
The Tait-Moreno council majority has achieved the remarkable feat of making the City of Anaheim a place talented civil servants try to leave.
If Anaheim sees any further top departures, as we hear rumors of, there could almost literally be no one left capable of moving forward the policy directives of a City Council majority already known for heavy on substance and low on accomplishments.