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Political Shift Cost Ovrom Her Job : Temple City: A newly elected councilman says the former city manager's spending pattern did not fit the City Council's emerging fiscal conservatism.

May 12, 1994|RICHARD WINTON | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The Temple City Council's decision to oust City Manager Denise Ovrom was prompted by recent election victories of fiscal conservatives, according a council member.

As a result, the council considered this shift a mandate to curb spending and find a like-minded administrator.

Ovrom, 43, agreed to leave her post after a closed-door meeting May 3. Her four-year tenure saw redevelopment around Las Tunas Drive, assessment fee hikes for lighting and parks and an uproar over a proposed utility tax that ultimately was rejected by residents.

"Considering the large voter turnout, I believe there's a mandate for reversing City Hall's tax-and-spend attitude. We just wanted to make certain we have a like-minded city manager," said newly elected Councilman Kenneth G. Gillanders.

The decision to oust Ovrom came less than a month after the April 12 city election, in which incumbents Bobbie McGowan and Mary Manning, both Ovrom supporters, lost to two candidates favoring tighter spending and opposed to any utility tax or existing assessment fees.

Gillanders, Planning Commissioner Charles Sounder and incumbent Cathe Wilson were elected on pledges to cut spending before increasing taxes.

The council authorized a $70,000 buyout of Ovrom's contract, according to City Atty. Charles Martin, who was appointed interim city manager.

Announcing the decision, Mayor Harry Budds said the new council desired a change of direction. He declined further comment.

Most council members, said Gillanders, believed the public was not willing to accept more taxes and increased spending, while Ovrom saw that as the only way to promote growth in the city.

"Like many in the new crop of city managers, (Ovrom) was educated in the same school of tax-and-spend government . . . that's why so many city managers are changing nowadays," said Gillanders, who served on the council from 1978 to 1990 and campaigned for fiscal conservatism and increased reserves.

Ovrom did not return telephone calls. She is the sixth city administrator to be ousted from a San Gabriel Valley city in the past year.

Former Councilwoman Manning said she was not surprised by the council action. Ovrom "did so much for this community in her time," said Manning.

Manning also said she finds it strange that candidates who promised fiscal conservatism would spend $70,000 to buy out the city manager's contract that expires in June, 1995, hire an interim administrator at $2,500 per month and initiate an expensive search for a replacement.

Martin said the city will begin a search for a replacement immediately. He will fill the temporary role of interim administrator for four months at an additional salary of $2,500 a month. Ovrom earned $86,000 a year plus benefits.

Across the San Gabriel Valley, Ovrom joins these administrators ousted in the last year: Arcadia's Donald Duckworth, Baldwin Park's Donald Penman, Bradbury's Aurora (Dolly) Vollaire, Covina's John R. Thomson and Sierra Madre's James E. McRea.

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