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2 Take City's Deal to Resign

Beleaguered longtime Mission Viejo manager and his city clerk wife will each get 14 months' pay. Critics had targeted his spending.

October 30, 2003|Dave McKibben | Times Staff Writer

Veteran Mission Viejo City Manager Dan Joseph, whose relationship with the City Council had grown increasingly volatile over the last year, has agreed to quit in exchange for 14 months' salary.

The settlement was struck in a closed session Tuesday night and is scheduled to be formally ratified by the City Council on Monday.

The settlement also calls for Joseph's wife, Ivy, to quit her job as city clerk, a post she has held since Mission Viejo incorporated 15 years ago.

Dan Joseph had served as city manager for nine years, the last of which was marked by rancor and turmoil following the forging of a new City Council majority last November that called for financial reforms at City Hall.

He had been targeted by critics for what they called excessive spending, including the purchase of a $6,000 desk and lavish meals. In February, the City Council commissioned an audit of Joseph's office expenses. Its findings have not been released.

Supporters had argued that Joseph had done an exemplary job of managing the city and its $50-million operating budget and building a $20-million emergency reserve fund.

"I'm just glad we can finally put an end to this misery," Joseph, 53, said Wednesday. "I'm tired of being blamed for everything but the Kennedy assassination around here."

According to the settlement, Joseph, who is paid about $152,000 a year, and his wife, who earns about $101,000 a year, will each receive 14 months' salary and $40,000 in workers' compensation for emotional and physical stress.

In exchange, Joseph agreed not to sue the city.

Joseph's tenure grew tenuous last November with the election of a new councilwoman who ultimately shifted the council's majority against Joseph.

That new majority had been supported by an organization called the Committee for Integrity in Government. In one of its newsletters, the organization called for the ouster of several key city employees including Joseph, saying that he was aligned with free-spending council members.

Joseph said his hold on the job was growing increasingly fragile, especially as the audit of his office was being drawn out. The investigation and growing tensions due to City Hall infighting took a toll on his staff's morale, he said.

"The only good, hopefully, that will come of this [settlement] is that people will stop focusing on me and maybe the discontent will go away," said Joseph. His last council meeting will be Monday.

Joseph said the issue of his wife's employment surfaced only recently.

"I said, 'If you want me, she has to go too.' She can no longer work for these people," he said. "She sat by me stoically for the last year, watching me get pummeled."

Councilwoman Gail Reavis, a longtime critic of Dan Joseph's, declined to comment on the settlement.

Councilman Lance MacLean, a Joseph supporter, said it was imperative for the city to offer the two employees an attractive severance package to avoid likely litigation by the couple against the city.

"It's best to take care of this now," he said.

Mayor John Paul Ledesma could not be reached for comment.

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