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Odd Twist in the Hunt for City Manager : West Covina: An old law says one of two boards must approve candidates. Since it was written, one of the agencies has died.


WEST COVINA — An unusual 26-year-old city ordinance is complicating the search for a replacement for City Manager Herman R. (Bob) Fast, who announced last week he is retiring.

A Municipal Code section approved in 1964 requires the City Council to appoint a city manager from a pool of five candidates recruited by the state Personnel Board or the county Civil Service Commission. It also requires the city to hire the new manager within two months.

But times have changed, and sticking to the letter of the law may be easier said than done.

"The (County Civil Service) commission may have done it in 1964, but we don't do it now," said Gene Pomeroy, executive officer of the county commission.

And Duane Morford, a spokesman for the state Personnel Board, said the state's Cooperative Personnel Services division, which once handled such tasks for cities, no longer exists as a state agency. However, the division now operates independently, Morford said.

Three members of the City Council last week said the ordinance should be changed to allow a less restrictive search for a manager.

"I've never heard of such a thing," Councilwoman Nancy Manners said. "I'm concerned that we're restricted to one agency. There are other recruitment firms that are very good. The ordinance is so bad, something must be done to change it. It sounded good in the '60s, but it's out of date in the '90s."

Steve Wylie, assistant to the city manager, said the selection process was started by voters during a period of what he called political turmoil in West Covina.

"Residents wanted to keep the council from (selecting) a less qualified person," he said.

Fast, 63, announced last Monday that he will retire from his $107,500-a-year position Sept. 30. He began his career with the city in 1962. He served more than three years as a planning commissioner and seven years as assistant city manager. In 1972, he was appointed city manager of Chino, but returned to West Covina as city manager in 1976.

Some city officials were caught unaware by the recruitment procedure because it has been 14 years since the city needed to recruit a manager.

Councilman Brad McFadden said he was surprised to learn about the ordinance and said he believes that it should be changed.

"The darn thing is antiquated," Councilman Richard Jennings said.

Mayor William Tarozzi and Councilman Steve Herfert could not be reached for comment.

Wylie said the intent of the ordinance is for the City Council to hire an independent agency to recruit a city manager. The city plans to "come as close as we can in implementing the ordinance," he said.

Wylie said the city may go with the now-independent Cooperative Personnel Services, which was formed by six California cities and other governmental entities after the state division of that name lost its funding five years ago.

Ed Cole, assistant director of the agency, said his service usually charges about $10,000 to recruit a city manager.

Cole added that he has never seen anything like West Covina's procedure for hiring a city manager. "I don't know of any city that has it in its Municipal Code," he said.

Manners said the council probably will take up the matter at its next meeting, Sept. 10.

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