SAN RAMON -- A decision to hire a public information officer at a cost in salary and benefits of $159,000 per year was nixed by the city council Tuesday.
Two weeks ago, members voted 3-2 to give City Manager Greg Rogers directions to fill the position, despite a hiring freeze. However, Mayor Bill Clarkson, who voted in support of the hire, said Tuesday that he had second thoughts after the vote.
Clarkson said after the council voted to approve the hire, he thought over a communications presentation given by city staff that same night when public services director Karen McNamara, marketing and public relations analyst Nicole Blazin, emergency preparedness manager Ray Riordan and administrative analyst Jennifer Dye outlined a strategy to improve communications with the public mainly through the use of social media.
"The staff made a great presentation about the things they are doing about communications," Clarkson said. "They had passion, energy and enthusiasm and I think it's important to support that. The staff is really moving in the direction that the council wants."
Clarkson said he asked Rogers to revisit the issue. On Tuesday night, the council then voted 4-0 to rescind its previous decision and not fill position.
"We're in a deficit. We don't have excess money," Clarkson said. "The staff had really put their heart and soul in developing a strategy to improve communications. We can increase communication dramatically and
In the previous meeting on July 10, councilmen Jim Livingstone and Dave Hudson voted against hiring a public information officer. Livingstone said hiring police officers should take priority. Hudson said he would rather wait until the end of the year to make a decision when Rogers will present an analysis of priorities for the city. He also said that according to the city's charter, the council only has the authority to hire two city employees: the city manager and the city attorney.
"It's up to the city manager," Hudson said, regarding hiring.
Rogers said the current hiring freeze allows him to fill positions that are deemed critical. He said the council had decided earlier this year that improving communications with the public was a priority, which is why hiring a public information officer first came up.
Currently, communications duties, such as writing news releases and the city newsletter, hosting the televised "Mayor's Report," and working with public access Contra Costa Television are now spread among city staff, Rogers said.
For now, Rogers said he has no intention of hiring a public information officer. "I'm in the mode of saving money," he said. "If things turn around someday, we'll be filling a lot of positions."
Contact Jason Sweeney at 925-847-2123. Follow him at Twitter.com/Jason_Sweeney.