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Oxnard Job Changes May Need City Council OK : Government: Panel will consider rules aimed at city clerk and treasurer positions, stemming from last year's controversy over Mabi Covarrubias Plisky's hiring.

September 14, 1993|PATRICK McCARTNEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The Oxnard City Council today will consider a proposal that would prohibit the city from giving another job to the city clerk or treasurer without the council's permission.

The ordinance was proposed in the wake of the Police Department's controversial hiring last fall of former City Clerk Mabi Covarrubias Plisky after she lost a reelection bid.

Some residents and city officials complained that Plisky received preferential treatment when she was hired as a crime-prevention coordinator because she is married to Councilman Michael Plisky.

Critics contended that the position had been frozen for two years and was not posted when Plisky applied.

In a report last December, City Manager Vern Hazen called Plisky's hiring proper, but said the ensuing controversy had hurt her effectiveness in the post. The council then voted to fire her during a closed session.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday September 15, 1993 Ventura West Edition Metro Part B Page 4 Column 1 Zones Desk 2 inches; 53 words Type of Material: Correction
Wrong outcome--An article Tuesday incorrectly reported the outcome of a grand jury investigation into a job move by former Oxnard City Clerk Mabi Covarrubias Plisky after she lost a reelection bid. The grand jury concluded that Oxnard officials showed no preferential treatment when they gave Plisky a job with the Police Department. City officials later fired her from the post.

Hazen said Plisky was entitled to ask for a job transfer after losing the election because she was considered a city employee and the equivalent of a department head.

While her elected duties paid only $300 a month, the bulk of her $54,845 base salary came from performing council-approved staff duties in connection with her elected position.

The council will also evaluate how many of the clerk's and treasurer's duties are mandated by government code and decide which optional duties they should perform. City staff would then prepare a job description for each position.

City Atty. Gary Gillig said the ordinance should spell out the jobs of city clerk and treasurer.

"Oxnard has a city clerk and city treasurer with a multitude of duties," Gillig said. "Some cities have a truly ceremonial city clerk."

Gillig, who wrote the proposed ordinance, defended the city's action in allowing Plisky to transfer to another job after her defeat last fall.

Nevertheless, he said, "when an incumbent clerk or city treasurer is defeated in an election . . . such a transfer may not be appropriate."

Oxnard reaction to the proposal has been mixed.

City Clerk Daniel Martinez, who defeated Plisky in the November election and charged at the time that her transfer was politically motivated, said the proposal presents a fair method of handling similar cases in the future.

"I'm just happy that it's all going to be upfront and that everybody is going to know what the rules are," Martinez said Monday. "Everybody is going to know about the process, and next time there won't be the confusion that there was last time."

Ralph Vester, chairman of the Cal-Gisler Neighborhood Council, said he feels the proposal doesn't go far enough.

"An elected official who is defeated should not have the right to transfer to another position," Vester said. "I like Mabi, but if a person gets beat, she's out of a job."

Vester was chairman of the inter-neighborhood council last year when the group asked the county grand jury to look into Plisky's hiring. The investigation was dropped after the City Council dismissed Plisky.

Carlos Aguilera, another neighborhood leader who criticized the Plisky hiring, called the proposal an overdue step in the right direction.

City Treasurer Dale Belcher, who was elected to a second term in November, said that the public reaction to Plisky's hiring was unfortunate. The council's proposal would help reassure the public, he added.

"Giving the council the ability to review such hirings puts it in their hands rather than the city manager or a department head," Belcher said. "The last word on anything that involves public perception should be made by the council."

Times staff writer Fred Alvarez contributed to this story.

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