POMONA — After narrowly avoiding an ouster by the City Council last month, embattled City Administrator Ora E. Lampman announced his retirement this week.
Lampman, 56, will leave his $72,000-a-year post on Oct. 31 to become a partner in a newly formed consulting firm that will advise public agencies on matters such as redevelopment. Lampman would not identify the firm.
"A business opportunity was presented to me that I'm very excited about, so I decided to retire," Lampman said. "The decision was not very difficult. I've been in the public sector for a long time--27 1/2 years-- and I thought it was time to take a look at some other opportunities."
Mayor Donna Smith, who announced Lampman's retirement at Monday night's City Council meeting, said she had anticipated the city administrator's departure.
"I really was not surprised," Smith said. "I had been expecting his retirement. I didn't know it would be this soon, but I expected it. . . . I guess you could call it women's intuition."
Lampman, who served 11 years in two stints as city administrator, had encountered increasing opposition from City Council members over the past five years. During that time, the city had to grapple with a budget deficit that at one point threatened to reach $3.9 million for the 1986-87 fiscal year.
Some of Lampman's detractors blamed him for the city's fiscal difficulties. Others criticized the administrator's deficit reduction strategy, which included a 57% increase in the local utility tax and across-the-board cuts in the city's budget.
During the fiscal crisis, some accused Lampman of not informing the council of the full range of options available to remedy the city's budgetary woes.
"The council was never aware of all of the options on anything," said C. L. (Clay) Bryant, a former councilman and a candidate in the November City Council election. Lampman "presented what he wanted to present and consequently the council was left in the dark much of the time."
Relations between the city administrator and the council were also strained by Lampman's arrest in December, 1985, on suspicion of drunk driving. Lampman, who was driving a city car at the time of his arrest, pleaded no contest to the charges in September, 1986. The council subsequently voted to dock him a week's pay and restrict his use of city vehicles.
The council's dissatisfaction with Lampman's performance came to a head last month, when the four council members split 2 to 2 on whether to terminate the city administrator. Mark Nymeyer and Nell Soto voted to oust Lampman, but Smith, who had frequently criticized the administrator in the past, joined E. J. (Jay) Gaulding in supporting him.
However, Lampman insisted that his decision was unrelated to his problems with the council.
"I don't even want to address that," he said. "It's not part of my decision. I have an opportunity and I want to leave the city on a positive note. . . . There were times we had real differences of opinion, but I think generally speaking we had a good working relationship."
And in the wake of his retirement, even Lampman's most strident critics did their best to speak highly of him.
"What Mr. Lampman did well, he did extremely well, and that was in the area of bringing new business to the city," Nymeyer said. "What Mr. Lampman did not do is really immaterial. He's retiring and I'd rather talk about the good things.
"Mr. Lampman and I have had some private conversations. He knows how I feel about him as a city administrator and as a man and I don't think that should be discussed in public or in the press. I'm glad Mr. Lampman has a nice, lucrative position to go to. I wish him all the luck in the world."
Gaulding, one of Lampman's staunchest allies on the council, has been involved in city politics since the 1940s and said the rancor between the council and the city administrator was nothing new.
"My experience over about 40 years is that politicians tend to blame the city administrator for whatever happens," Gaulding said. "I think he's carried out whatever his direction was. The problem is that there's currently no direction on the council."
That view was shared by Smith, whose criticism of Lampman's performance abated after she was elected mayor in April.
Smith said that before she became mayor she "was not totally pleased with everything. We've had our differences, but I think he's been very cooperative since I've been in the mayor's office. I think he has tried to work harder at communicating and being cooperative, which were two of my pet peeves.
"You come to the conclusion that when the council is sending mixed signals, what is the administrator to do?. . . . It's a challenging job and I think he did the best he could."
Although he declined to speak specifically about his problems with any members of the current council, Lampman said discontent is inherent in the relationship between the city administrator and the council.