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Long Beach Fires Manager

September 06, 2002|NANCY WRIDE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In a climate of community discontent over a $46-million budget shortfall, the Long Beach City Council fired the city manager late Wednesday, offering no official reason.

The termination of Henry Taboada, who had held the city's top job since 1999 after a generation of rising through the ranks of various departments, will be effective Oct. 4, Mayor Beverly O'Neill said. The 9-0 vote for dismissal was taken during a 3 1/2-hour emergency closed session to review his performance.

"There were no derogatory comments, [but] there was discontent on the part of some council members," said O'Neill, who leads council meetings but does not have a vote. "They are personnel issues that I'm not going to discuss."

Local newspapers critical of the budget deficit and Taboada's recent purchase of a home using Vice Mayor Frank Colonna's real estate services created public pressure on the City Council, Taboada said.

"I was the sacrificial lamb," a calm, pragmatic Taboada said Thursday.

Taboada's contract provides him with a half-year's severance pay, or about $100,000, and the cash value of his other benefits, estimated at about $30,000 to $40,000, the mayor said.

Assistant City Manager Gerald Miller will serve in the interim as the council searches for a replacement to oversee California's fifth-largest city, which has a work force of about 5,500 full-time employees.

Councilman Dan Baker, who talked about wanting a new city manager during his unsuccessful campaign for mayor, said news stories had no influence on his drive to oust Taboada. Others, however, agreed with Taboada that the local press had indirectly played a key role.

Then there was the matter of Taboada's recent purchase of a home on Naples Island, which generated numerous letters to the editor.

The city attorney had advised Colonna that he would not break conflict-of-interest laws by serving as a real estate agent because his $14,000 commission would be paid by the home seller. Colonna said he gave the commission to a charity long before newspaper criticism appeared.

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