During a nearly three-hour closed session meeting last night, the Anaheim City Council voted to accept the resignation of City Manager Chris Zapata, and appointed Deputy City Manager Greg Garcia to serve as Interim City Manager.
Mayor Harry Sidhu, Mayor Pro Tem Lucille Kring, and Councilmembers Jordan Brandman, Steve Faessel and Trevor O’Neil voted to accept Zapata’s resignation and for Garcia’s appointment. Councilmember Jose F. Moreno and Denise Barnes voted in opposition.
Oddly, Barnes participated in the initial three-hour closed session, skipped the open session – which included a major development issue in her council district – and then returned for the continued closed session late in the evening.
“I and all of Anaheim thank Chris for his service to our city,” said Mayor Sidhu. “There is never a perfect time for change, but it is always a good time to move forward. I want to ensure our residents that even with this change, our city is in the great hands of thousands of employees who are on the front line of providing the services we all expect in times of crisis and normalcy. We have a big challenge ahead of us on the road to recovery, and I look forward to working with our City Council, city staff and community partners to make Anaheim stronger than ever. We’re in this together, and we will get through this together.”
Zapata, whose annual salary was $299,000, will cease being on the job effective immediately. He will receive 12-months severance pay in accordance with his hiring agreement ( a fairly standard provision in city manager contracts), plus an additional month’s pay, serving as the requisite 30-day’s notice. Additionally, Zapata will receive an additional six-months salary.
Last week, Mayor Sidhu agendized the city manager’s “resignation/release/dismissal” and the appointment of an interim city manager. The item was agendized in an identical manner to how Mayor Tom Tait agendized the forced resignation of then-City Manager Paul Emery in July of 2017. At that time, Moreno and Barnes joined Tait and then-Councilman James Vanderbilt in support of Emery’s resignation.
Zapata was appointed as Anaheim’s city manager in July, 2018. Zapata had been the city manager of San Leandro in Northern California, leaving that post with a $350,000 severance package, just prior to getting the top job in Anaheim city government.
City Hall Veteran Takes Over At Interim City Manager
Taking the reins of City Hall as interim city manager is Deputy City Manager Greg Garcia, a City Hall veteran who has worked for Anaheim for 15 years. Garcia has served in senior leadership roles with the city since 2012, as deputy city manager and assistant city manager. He has also served as acting city manager on a number of occasions.
As Deputy City Manager, Garcia has been in charge of overseeing the Finance department, Community Services, Convention Sports and Entertainment, and the city’c communications. He has been playing a leading role in the city’s emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Garcia, 45, graduated from Servite High School in Anaheim. He is the second Friar to lead City Hall: Dave Morgan, who was city manager from 2001 to 2009, was also a Servite graduate. Garcia grew up in La Mirada, and earned his undergraduate degree from UC San Diego and a law degree from the University of Notre Dame Law School. Garcia’s father also pursued a career in public administration, serving as city manager of Norwalk from 1994 until his retirement in 2010.