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Activist Challenges Claremont Manager's Bonus

November 22, 2001|TIPTON BLISH | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The Claremont City Council broke the law when it voted in private to reward its city manager with a bonus and changed his contract last month, according to a claim filed Wednesday by activist Richard McKee.

"There is no authority whatsoever that would allow the city manager to be in closed session negotiating his contract," McKee said.

His claim demands that the city rescind City Manager Glenn Southard's bonus and changes to his contract that will reward him when he retires. The city has 30 days to act before McKee can sue.

McKee is a board member and the incoming president of the California First Amendment Coalition, a Sacramento-based organization that seeks to ensure open government.

Southard and Mayor Paul Held had left work for the Thanksgiving holiday when McKee filed the claim, and could not be reached for comment. Assistant City Manager Bridget Healy said it would be referred to City Atty. Sonia Carvalho, who also could not be reached.

On Oct. 25, the City Council met for more than four hours to evaluate Southard's performance over the past 18 months. A majority of the council gave him good marks, though they told him he needed to improve his relations with residents, the mayor said at the time.

On a split vote taken in closed session, Southard got a bonus and a reworked contract, Held said.

But that vote violated the Brown Act, the California law limiting secrecy in government, McKee alleges.

"You're dealing with the spending of taxpayers' money, and taxpayers should have the opportunity to hear and participate in the discussion of the setting of a salary," said Erwin Chemerinsky, a USC law professor.

If the City Council wants to raise the salary of its employees, it needs to let the public hear the proposal and have a chance to comment on it, McKee said.

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