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Vote Could End Simonian Dispute

Newly elected Councilman Ken Ryan wants to end the deadlock and settle with the city manager.


The result of Tuesday's City Council race in Yorba Linda could mean an end to the city's protracted dispute with City Manager Arthur C. Simonian.

Newly elected Councilman Ken Ryan said Wednesday he would like to cast his first vote in favor of settling the issue. Such a vote would end a deadlock on the council that has paralyzed the city for months.

"That's my No. 1 priority," Ryan said. "Pursuing a settlement to save our taxpayers' money is what I'm most concerned about."

According to unofficial results released by the Orange County Registrar of Voters on Wednesday, Ryan led a field of seven candidates with 34% of the vote. If certified as the winner, he could join the council as soon as March 21 to fill a seat vacant since Councilman Gene Wisner resigned in September.

Ryan, 42, is an urban planner who has served as a Yorba Linda planning commissioner for six years and a Parks and Recreation commissioner for four.

He said a deadlock on the council over firing the city manager has wasted money by forcing the city to pay two chief executives--Simonian and interim City Manager Daniel Miller.

The city is suing Simonian, now on paid administrative leave, to recover as much as $300,000 in bonuses the city alleges he paid himself without proper authorization. Simonian has denied any wrongdoing and is suing to get his job back.

Ryan said he would prefer to work out a settlement with Simonian so the city can save legal expenses. He said firing Simonian now would be pointless because his contract cannot be terminated until October.

Simonian's contract says he cannot be fired sooner than 120 days after an election, and that he must receive a 90-day notice before his termination takes effect.

"I want to bring common sense and objectivity back to the council so that we can move ahead with settling the issue and save money," Ryan said.

The city's four incumbent council members deadlocked 2-2 for the third time on a vote to fire Simonian on Tuesday night.

Councilman Henry W. Wedaa, who has opposed firing Simonian, said Ryan's vote will allow the council to begin working on a settlement.

"Ryan's election is a good sign," Wedaa said. "He's an independent thinker. But I think in all fairness that he should get some time to go over the facts before being asked to make a decision."

But Mayor John M. Gullixson, who favors firing Simonian, said he believes Ryan will join his side of the dispute.

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