In a Split Vote, WeHo’s City Council Affirms the City Manager’s Hiring Authority

City manager Paul Arevalo
Paul Arevalo

A proposal to update West Hollywood’s Municipal Code to clarify City Manager Paul Arevalo’s authority to hire and supervise senior City Hall staffers drew opposition last night from two City Council members who argued that the Council should have a say in hiring department heads.

The proposal, brought forward by City Attorney Mike Jenkins, would bring the city’s code in line with state law, which applies to cities such as West Hollywood that do not have their own city charter.

In a memo to the City Council, Jenkins said he “recommended that the City Council adopt an ordinance adding language to clarify that the City Manager’s duties include the power to appoint, remove, promote and demote any and all officers and employees of the city, except the City Attorney. This proposed language is consistent with the state law, the common understanding of the city manager form of government, and long-standing city practice.”

Jenkins also proposed other minor modifications to acknowledge the re-organization over the years of City Hall duties.

Mayor John D’Amico and City Councilmember Lauren Meister objected to the change. “We are responsible as Council members and the community expects us to have that authority,” Meister said. “This is like saying we shouldn’t have a House Oversight Committee (an apparent reference to the committee that examines issues involving the U.S. House of Representatives)”

D’Amico questioned Jenkins as to why he was bringing the item forward so many years after the city’s incorporation in 1984. “Taking away future opportunities for the City Council to have input… I think is a bad idea,” he said.

“There had to be some reason that the city manager himself wanted it changed…. ,” D’Amico said. “It feels like there’s this fear on the side of management…. It feels like it’s coming for a place of fear.”

Council members John Duran, John Heilman, and Lindsey Horvath supported the revision. “In the time when the Council was involved in hiring staff, it didn’t go so well,” Horvath said, apparently referring to the City Council deputy system. Under that system, the part-time Council members hired fulltime deputies who reported directly to them. The system was controversial and was dissolved in 2015 after Ian Owens, deputy to Councilmember Duran, lost his job and sued the city and Duran, alleging sexual harassment. The elimination of the system prompted a lawsuit by Michelle Rex, D’Amico’s deputy and former campaign manager, that exposed a pattern of misbehavior on the part of some of the deputies.

Duran, in stating his support for Jenkins’ proposal, said the city was organized like a typical non-profit organization in which board members don’t get involved in day-to-day activities.

The changes that Jenkins proposed bring the city in line not only with state law but with the concept of the council-manager system of government. That system was born in the early 1900s through the work of a young civic activist and New York ad exec named Richard Childs. Childs saw the flaws in various forms of government across the country such as the strong mayor system and the commission system.

That inspired him to come up with the idea of the council-manager form of government, which supporters saw as a well-structured and efficient “business form” of local government. The council-manager system now is used in thousands of cities across the country and has been used in West Hollywood since its inception in 1984. It was first used in Sumter, S.C. in 1913, when Malcolm McLean Worthington became the first city manager in the nation.


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carleton cronin
Guest

It is quite naive to believe that a city manager have complete control over hiring his most important supervisors. An old business school axiom states that, as certain companies (institutions) reach a certain size, they cease to have any interests outside itself. Can happen at city halls, also. We need to be able to see inside. It is NOT his city hall it is our city hall and the Council must represent the citizens’ interests there. represent our

carleton cronin
Guest

Without City Council oversight residents have no say in many of the operations vital to their daily existence. Mr. Arrevalo has been an extraordinary force in making our city extremely financially secure. Once when I asked him how he could sit through so many Council meetings without passing out, he replied “Coffee- lots of coffee – and I love process.” Further, I recall when he presented an annual, printed review of the city’s business. He needs to restart that journal. If it is hidden somewhere on the city’s website, it is not available to all the residents, those who do… Read more »

Vigilant
Guest
Vigilant

Mr. Jenkins once stated during a Malibu City Council meeting we just make it up as we go along until the courts tell us otherwise. Perhaps not the exact quote but close enough. So in essence, if the resident thinks the city made an incorrect decision, the burden is on the resident. A notable attorney countered Mr. Jenkins on a process and procedure matter during a council meeting and he shrugged. So the resident would have been on the hook and so who defends them?

Ben Ther
Guest
Ben Ther

City Council SHOULD monitor the City’s hirings/firings and the reasons behind either. If not, good city employees could be fired, and bad actors from the good ol boys club could be hired, merely on management’s whim.

Alan Strasburg
Guest
Alan Strasburg

Absolutely monitor, as in oversight, but not micromanage as in making the decisions. The city council passes a budget and approves a structure which the city manager executes. Such executive authority has to rest ultimately in one person’s hands. That person is accountable to the council and should present regular reports to the council in executive session. Meddling will politicize that which must be immune from the political process.

James Palmieri
Guest
James Palmieri

Unions are pretty good at that.

Josh Kurpies
Guest
Josh Kurpies

There is no question under State law of the authority of a City Manager and there shouldn’t be a question within our own City leadership. The fact this was a split vote is disconcerting to me considering our City will undoubtedly someday be faced with some sort of emergency crisis as a result of a natural disaster (ie major earthquake) and it is imperative the Council, City staff and community know who is in charge in the absence of a Council quorum.

jimmy palmieri
Guest
jimmy palmieri

I have watched Paul over the years. I have faith in him. When his salary was “all the news” I supported his raise. He has been a good steward. There is no losing here. When new council members start to come in, there should be consistency inside. If for some reason the council is no longer happy with him, they can relieve him of his duties. I think it makes sense for Paul to run city hall, and for council to run the city.

Manny
Guest
Manny

Maybe the system we have in Weho is the reason why our city runs better and is more livable than the City of Los Angeles.

Keeping politics and the politicians out of the day to day operations is a good thing.

Nick
Guest
Nick

Completely agree. This was a benign issue that related to updating the city’s code to be consistent with state law. For Meister and D’Amico to protest that this was an underhanded way to take away transparency and “checks and balances” was absolutely absurd and an overreach. In particular, D’Amico’s terse and completely unfounded assertion that this was somehow a back-channel request from the city Manager made him look like a paranoid old person complaining about the government not being fair or taking away rights without providing any evidence.

Jonathan Simmons
Guest
Jonathan Simmons

“Running Better” is a relative term. Comparing 35,000 people living in weho and 7-10 Million in Greater Los Angeles ignores the ENORMOUS ANNUAL INCOME IN TINY WEHO… PER PERSON, WEHO’ians could get monthly/annual grants from the hundreds of millions tossed around on vanity projects at crazy prices. Run better? Due to some kind of long term rift between City, City Hall and LA County Sheriff’s Department (paid to be law enforcement for the entire city, residents, businesses, property, traffic and Crimes against people and property in weho. With the absurdly high annual budget, the rift hasn’t been fixed, and we… Read more »

Alan Strasburg
Guest
Alan Strasburg

There should be no question about a good governance proposal such as this which clearly defines the roles, and indeed brings them in line with state law. Absolute executive authority must reside in the city manager (per state law) which authority does not preclude the council’s oversight prerogative. The city manager serves at the pleasure of the council and can be removed any time that a council majority deems his/her performance or decisions to be at odds with what is best for the city. This was a good housekeeping measure.