During Wednesday night's special city council meeting, Lake Elsinore saw a divided council, a city manager take administrative leave, threat of a recall, and an outraged community.
It was standing room only at the Cultural Center in Lake Elsinore as residents, community leaders and city officials turned out mostly in support of their city manager, Bob Brady.
Despite the strong backing and emotional outpouring from various corners, however, effective immediately Brady is on administrative leave pending a public hearing scheduled March 13.
The hearing will be a continuation of Wednesday’s meeting that was called to discuss
The Public Weighs In
For more than an hour Wednesday night, Lake Elsinore City Council members heard comments from the public praising Brady for his service and his commitment to the city.
“Bob is the most honest (city manager) we’ve ever had,” said longtime Lake Elsinore resident Chris Hyland.
Lake Elsinore Unified School District board member Jeanie Corral said Brady is committed to the “community and our children.”
“Bob has proven to be a true leader,” said Lake Elsinore resident Jimmy Flores.
In total, 22 people stood up to tell city council members Wednesday they support Brady and approve of the job he’s doing; only five people spoke against him.
Trevi Entertainment Center owner Michel Knight, told the council he believes Brady is “definitely good” and “definitely honest,” but he questioned the city manager’s “business mentality.”
“I don’t believe he is the right man,” Knight said.
Lake Elsinore resident Tim Fleming also spoke against Brady, saying the city’s image needs improvement.
“We need a new direction,” he said.
One resident appeared neutral on Brady, telling the council he would support whatever decision was made.
Absent from the discussion Wednesday were public comments from some of the city's most prominent organizations and businesses such as the Lake Elsinore Valley Chamber of Commerce and the conglomerate Castle & Cooke, which owns mining interests across the city.
After hearing all public comments, the council members, Brady and City Attorney Barbara Leibold met in closed session. When they emerged about 45 minutes later, Leibold announced the continuance and Brady's leave.
Many in the community have questioned the need for a special meeting to discuss Brady’s performance, and Wednesday night some public commenters accused council members Daryl Hickman, Melissa Melendez and Peter Weber of masterminding to fire the city manager.
Hickman and Melendez called for Leibold’s contract to be put out to bid, whereas Magee and Tisdale showed support for the city attorney. Ultimately, council voted 3-1 to extend Leibold’s contract until 2013. Hickman cast the sole vote against, while Melendez waivered, saying, “I am confused about the reluctance to have (Leibold’s service contract) competitively bid.”
The vote came less than a month after an
Several residents who addressed the council Wednesday night expressed anger over what they call the “political motivations” of Hickman, Melendez and Weber.
Harvey Ryan, president of the Elsinore Valley Municipal Water District board of directors, said the community shouldn’t be focused on Brady, but rather on the political agenda of some city council members.
“Maybe we’re talking about the wrong person tonight,” he said.
Ruth Atkins, who serves as president of the Lake Elsinore Historical Society, told the council members that when November rolls around, residents need to think about who they elect.
Change Is Inevitable
The makeup of the Lake Elsinore City Council will undoubtedly change this fall. Terms for It’s unclear whether either will file for reelection if they find themselves behind after the June primary.
after Bhutta resigned. His term expires in November. He has not yet announced whether he’ll run for election.
Hickman’s term expires in 2014, but Chris Hyland said she has begun the process to recall the councilman.
Wednesday night she said of the recall effort, “I have a lot of people and money behind me.”
So come November, there is only one sure bet on the Lake Elsinore City Council: Mayor Brian Tisdale, whose term expires in 2014. And for now, it’s not clear who will fill the city manager’s chair alongside him.