S.B. Council Meetings Growing Pains
By Dianne Anderson
The last San Bernardino City Council meeting drew a packed room of riled up community members to the podium, with many wondering how recent administrative moves fit into the overall goals and strategy for the city.
A slew of complaints ranged from the acquisition of commercial cannabis licenses, to what to do about the streets and potholes, what’s the plan for stopping the violence, to the emotionally charged outsourcing of animal control.
Sixth Ward Councilmember Bessine Richard said that the goal under the new Mayor is to take a new approach, bring revenue back to the city.
“The city has made a choice, they chose a new Mayor, with his vision, which he mentioned in the state of the city, is that we want to bring new revenue into the city, we want a safe city. We want to think outside of the box,” she said.
But, she added that it’s obvious some decisions are impeding progress, and not everyone on the city council is on the same page.
“We don’t have to like each other, but we definitely have to respect one another,” she said.
Regarding the recent vote on City Manager Andrea Miller, Richard said that the closed session is a personnel issue, and is not up for discussion until the matter is reviewed.
“Then the decision will be made whether she is going to remain an employee or whether she is going to be dismissed, but right now she’s only been on administrative leave since Wednesday of last week,” Richard said.
By definition, paid administrative leave means that all pay and benefits will be kept intact until a decision to terminate her five-year contract is finalized.
Fourth Ward Councilmember Fred Shorett, who voted against letting City Manager Andrea Miller off on paid administrative said the high price tag leave may trigger bigger worries down the line about the city budget.
In the meantime, she is being paid over $20,000 a month plus benefits to not work, with no indication of how long she will continue to receive compensation.
As yet, there is no public announcement of the reason behind letting Miller go, but at a December 21 Joint Special Meeting, the Mayor and City Council went into closed session to, “Discuss and take action on termination of Employment Agreement with the City Manager Andrea M. Miller without cause.”
Miller declined to comment on why she was put on administrative leave.
It was announced at the April 3 City Council meeting that Theodore Sanchez, Sandra Ibarra, and Bessine Richard voted yes to place Miller on paid administrative leave. James Mulvihill, Henry Nickel, and Fred Shorett voted no, with Mayor Valdivia breaking the tie. At least for now, assistant city manger Teri Ledoux has assumed the city manager duties.
Miller had served as assistant city manager under Charles McNeely, who resigned in 2012. She stepped up to become acting city manager, before moving one year later to fill an executive director position with San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments, where she stayed until 2015. She then took the city manager seat in Covina for one year, before returning to San Bernardino as assistant city manager under City Manager Mark Scott, who retired in 2017.
As the longest tenured elected official in the city, Shorett said he’s seen eight city managers come and go over the past ten years.
“I’ve seen a new charter, a bankruptcy, the end of RDA (redevelopment agencies), the contracting out of fire and trash. I’ve seen people go away in handcuffs,” he said.
Gary Saenz, San Bernardino City Attorney, said that Miller is on paid administrative leave, and the personnel matter was handled in closed session.
“She continues to be fully employed with her pay and her benefits pursuant to the terms of her contract, there’s no severance that has been discussed,” he said.