Photo Gallery: Personnel losses loom over council meeting
Special Section: San Bernardino
SAN BERNARDINO - The likelihood that Acting City Manager Andrea Travis-Miller will soon take another job and the possibility that many others might follow her out hung over Thursday's special City Council meeting.
Contracts with consultants to help with the city's finances already had the close attention of council members, given how far behind the city was on finance-related tasks that U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Meredith Jury indicated were vital for the city to retain bankruptcy protection.
The contracts become even more important now that Travis-Miller has been nominated to be executive director of the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments, several council members said.
If the full board of that agency approves her, the city would lose the top manager who has worked with consultants to shepherd the city through its tumultuous bankruptcy process.
The prospect of losing Travis-Miller means the city should be extra vigilant about ensuring consultants are clear on exactly what they are being asked to do.
"I know this sounds like micromanagement to some folks," Councilwoman Wendy McCammack said as she suggested small changes to the language of one contract, "but if Ms. Miller ends up in the best job in the world 30 days from now, they'll say you already agreed to this scope of work, and I don't think that's right."
When city managers have left the city in the past, it has often been followed by other top-level departures, although City Attorney James F. Penman said only one supervisor had written a resignation letter this year. Penman didn't name that person, but police Lt. Paul Williams, the department spokesman, said Steve WilKomm was leaving as division manager of Code Enforcement, which as part of a 2012 budget reduction was moved into the Police Department.
WilKomm will leave Jan. 17, and Williams and Capt. Raymond King will take over his duties until another decision is made, Williams said.
Travis-Miller has not resigned.
Councilman Fred Shorett said he was concerned that employee turnover, particularly in the city manager position, might complicate attempts to finish the financial reviews and other budget tasks required by the bankruptcy court.
"Not knowing who we might be dealing with or how that position might be filled in the future, I want to be careful we're looking at the long term and not just the short-term needs that are critical," Shorett said.
Travis-Miller, who had declined to become city manager on a non-interim basis, said longevity was important.
"We are cognizant of your concerns and we've tried to fill these positions on a longterm basis," she said.
The council extended a contract with Urban Futures, which has helped the city develop its budget reports and plans since just before moving toward bankruptcy, by up to $200,000 and added $100,000 to the contract with the consulting firm Prostaff.
Council members delayed a decision on whether to start a $60,000 consulting contract with Intellibridge Partners.
Only Councilman John Valdivia, who said he was "uncomfortable with the response" from Urban Futures, voted against the contracts.
Still, McCammack said she was concerned about the rising costs and encouraged staff to look for current city employees who can perform the jobs whenever possible.
The declining size of the city staff was driven home when Finance Director Jason Simpson said the number of people assigned to risk management was "maybe less than one."
Mayor Pat Morris laughed slightly as people asked what that meant.
"It depends on who leaves tomorrow," Morris said.