MONTEREY PARK — Three days after he was offered a permanent appointment as city manager, David Bentz, who had been handling the job on an interim basis, quit Tuesday, saying that "the work environment isn't conducive for me to stay."
Bentz, 49, a Monterey Park employee for almost 22 years, submitted his resignation, effective Feb. 19. If the council cannot find a new city manager by then, Bentz said, he is willing to stay on as an independent contractor until a selection is made.
Bentz would not spell out his complaints about the work situation, but said that his hope of insulating his job and the city staff from politics had not been realized.
Councilman Barry L. Hatch charged that Mayor Christopher Houseman forced Bentz's resignation by threatening to drive him out of the job if he accepted a permanent appointment. Houseman denied the charge, saying "That's an outrageous and reckless statement."
Decision at Closed Session
The council, in a closed personnel session Saturday, voted to offer Bentz the post, Hatch said, but details of his contract still had to be worked out before the appointment could be officially made at a public session. Houseman said he will not discuss his vote or what was said in the closed session because personnel matters are supposed to remain confidential. However, other council members said that Houseman opposed Bentz's appointment.
At Monday night's council meeting, Houseman and Bentz clashed over a proposal to extend the city's contract with a company that runs the municipal transportation system, which uses buses built to look like trolleys. Former Mayor Louise Davis charged that there were irregularities in the awarding of the bus contract in 1986, and Houseman called for an investigation. Bentz said he resented Houseman's assumption that the staff had acted incorrectly.
Of his relationship with Houseman, Bentz would only say: "It's fair to say he isn't one of my supporters."
Houseman apparently also objected to giving Bentz the city manager's job because Bentz became a candidate after the selection process was nearly finished, according to other council members.
Bentz, formerly director of management services, has been serving as interim city manager since October, succeeding Lloyd de Llamas, who quit to enter private business.
When the recruitment process for a new city manager began, Bentz said, it was understood that the council wanted to bring in an outsider, so he did not apply. But after narrowing the list of candidates, "several council members approached me and encouraged me to throw my hat in the ring," he said.
Bentz added that he told council members on Jan. 16 the conditions under which he would take the job. The council interviewed him and one other candidate Saturday. Bentz said that Hatch and Councilwoman Patricia Reichenberger then informed him that the job was his.
But on Tuesday, Bentz called council members to tell them he would not take the position and had decided to enter private business. Bentz, who lives in Rancho Cucamonga, said he plans to set up a firm to help cities audit property taxes.
Houseman, Hatch and Reichenberger were elected to the council in April, 1986, on similar platforms, calling for toughened restrictions on development, emphasizing larger-scale commercial projects instead of the previous small ones. But although Houseman has often voted with Hatch and Reichenberger on development matters, he has been at odds with them on other issues.
Reichenberger charged that Houseman has cost the city the services of a good administrator. "Something has to be done with Mayor Houseman," she said. "It is terrible that he could do this." Hatch said Bentz is leaving the city because "he will not put up with the abuse of Mayor Houseman."
Houseman said Bentz told him that he is resigning to go into private business, and he believes that is his reason for quitting, not the notions advanced by Hatch and Reichenberger.