SOUTH GATE — The city administrator has been ousted by the City Council, a day after he announced plans to retire in March.
The council emerged from a closed session Tuesday and demanded that City Administrator Bruce Spragg resign by the end of the week.
"The council wants to hire its own administrator," said Mayor Robert A. Philipp, who added that the council will name an interim city administrator while a search goes on for a permanent replacement.
Spragg, 57, who has been city administrator for more than eight years, revealed his retirement plans publicly Monday at the regular council meeting.
He said that he wanted to provide enough advance notice to ensure a smooth transition and that he had told the council about his retirement plans in an Aug. 10 letter.
Spragg said he was surprised by the council's swift action: "I respect the council's right to hire anyone they want, but I think this isn't right for the city. It doesn't provide for an orderly transition."
Spragg is the fourth top-level administrator to leave the city since the April election that saw three new council members elected. The new members--Johnny Ramirez, Mary Ann Buckles and Larry Leonard--were supported by Philipp and Vice Mayor Gregory Slaughter.
Former Mayor Herbert W. Cranton was defeated in the last council election, and two other incumbents did not seek reelection.
Cranton criticized the council's action: "This is really a bad move. It is really a loss to the city. I worked with Spragg for eight years. He knew what he was doing."
Spragg, who made $87,000 a year, had been in government service for more than 29 years. Before coming to South Gate, he was city manager of Santa Ana for six years.
Philipp said: "The council has a right to hire a city attorney and a chief administrator. We are merely exercising our prerogative."
City Atty. Bruce Boogaard resigned May 25 to become Chula Vista's chief attorney. William B. Rudell was named interim city attorney for South Gate.
Public Works Director Rollie Berry retired in July, and Parks and Recreation Department Director George Price left the same month to take a better-paying job with the Moreno Valley parks and recreation department, Philipp said.
Just before the election, the council, including Philipp and Slaughter, approved better job protection and more severance for top administrators. But the newly elected council, with Philipp and Slaughter reversing their positions, voted to rescind that resolution.