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Norwalk Administrator Gibbs, Sensing Ax, Resigns

April 20, 1986|RALPH CIPRIANO | Times Staff Writer

NORWALK — City Administrator Raymond L. Gibbs resigned Thursday, apparently after determining that he was on the short end of a 3-2 City Council split over whether he should be retained as the city's top appointed official.

Gibbs announced his resignation in a Thursday morning meeting with department heads, said Councilwoman Peg Nelson and several City Hall officials who declined to be identified. Gibbs' last day of work was Friday.

Council members were to have met in a closed-door session Saturday to accept Gibbs' resignation and begin the search for a successor. For the interim before a successor is chosen, council members have selected Richard Streng, a 28-year city employee who currently is a special assistant to the city administrator, to run the city in Gibbs' absence.

Gibbs, who has been Norwalk's top official since February, 1984, did not return Times phone calls.

Closed-Door Meeting

Last month in a closed-door meeting the council had been split 3-2 on whether Gibbs should be fired before the election, City Hall sources said at the time. At the meeting, Councilmen Cecil N. Green and Bob White sought to fire Gibbs before the election, but council members Marcial (Rod) Rodriguez, Lou Banas and Nelson voted to retain Gibbs. A council review of Gibbs' performance had been scheduled for next month.

But in the council election last week, one of Gibbs' supporters, Banas, lost by 28 votes to Grace M. Napolitano. In a Times interview last week, Napolitano said she would vote against Gibbs, whom she labeled a "weak administrator."

Reacting to Gibbs' resignation, council members praised his administrative abilities, but said Gibbs was too shy and reserved to effectively handle his $63,120-a-year position. Council members also criticized Gibbs for not being visible in the community and for not meeting more often with residents' groups.

"You should meet with the Little Leaguers, you should meet with the senior citizens you should find out what's happening in the community," Green said in a Thursday interview. Green said that, in the past few months, he had received several complaints from residents who said they were unable to get in touch with Gibbs.

Loud Argument

Green said Gibbs also had a difficult time working with all five council members. Last month, Green had a loud argument with Gibbs at City Hall where the two men stood toe-to-toe and shouted obscenities at each other, said City Hall sources.

In a Thursday interview, Banas said Gibbs was a "very reserved person" whose "personality did not mesh with the personality of the council."

"He was not a gung-ho backslapper," Banas said of Gibbs. Banas said Gibbs had told him last week that he had decided that serving as a city administrator in a large city such as Norwalk may not be "his cup of tea."

In an interview, Nelson said of Gibbs, "He has been with us two years and we've done some interesting things, some positive things, since he's been here."

Napolitano said she was "sure (Gibbs) would be good administrator for another city."

White and Rodriguez declined comment.

Last year, Gibbs signed a contract with the city that called for four months' severance pay, or $20,829, if he was fired.

Gibbs apparently decided to resign rather than temporarily continue in office with the opposition of a majority of council members. Even though he faced a 3-2 council split, Gibbs could have chosen to remain as city administrator for 90 days. The city has an ordinance that requires a unanimous vote to replace a city administrator within 90 days of an election, City Atty. Ken Brown said.

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