On eve of recall election, Mission Viejo City Manager wants to amend his contract

Everyone is in the polling business. We see polling results almost every night in which voters are asked to evaluate elected officials or their policies. Some people are very good at reading tea leaves. I think John Zogby is one of the best at his craft.

A clue for Mission Viejo voters, on the night before our Feb 2nd recall election, is provided by our city manager who has requested an Amendment to his Contract which is normally reviewed in the summer.

Is Dennis Wilberg conceding the recall of Mayor Lance MacLean which may result in his inability to count to three?

Dan Joseph, his predecessor, educated us several years ago on that term which I will never forget. When you have a city council composed of five members, all the City Manager needs to concern himself with regarding job security, is having three members in your camp.

The following story was just published at the  Mission Viejo Dispatch. I will share the entire text and leave the link below. As I am so close to this recall election I will let this story speak for itself without editorial comments from me in the initial posting.

City Manager & His Attorney Want To Redefine ‘Misconduct’

by MissionViejoDispatch.com on January 30, 2010

“In a surprise move, City Manager Dennis Wilberg and his attorney are asking for immediate amendments to Wilberg’s employment agreement. The item shows up on the ‘consent’ portion of next Monday’s public session agenda, where it is batched with six other items for summary approval in a single council vote, without discussion.

The item is raising eyebrows because Wilberg is precipitously requesting action on the eve of next Tuesday’s recall election. Some observers speculate Wilberg is concerned about the possibility a more fiscally conservative council might be less generous if MacLean is recalled.

Wilberg wants to rewrite his clause on misconduct, which is now defined in his contract as “dishonesty, fraud, self-dealing or willful misconduct.” His attorney wants all of those eliminated, so that misconduct is redefined to include only misappropriation of funds or conviction of a felony (involving “moral turpitude”). The matter could have significant cost implications to taxpayers, because Wilberg is entitled to nine-months’ severance pay if released for reasons other than misconduct.

Wilberg and his attorney also want to make severance payable as a lump sum, instead of a monthly distribution. In addition they seek to add health benefits to the nine months’ parachute package and provide that attorney fees be paid to the prevailing party in any arbitration or litigation. An attorneys’ fee provision could be a disadvantage to taxpayers, because it might be easier for Wilberg to retain an expensive law firm on contingency, making a lawsuit against the City more likely.

Normally contract revisions follow a series of closed sessions for personnel evaluation, but none has occurred.  Wilberg’s master contract, executed March 1, 2004, requires that Wilberg issue a memo on May 1 of each year commencing an annual evaluation and allows until June 30 for the council to complete the process. For unknown reasons, Wilberg failed to initiate and undergo an evaluation last year.

An agenda provided to council members Wednesday did not include any evaluation in conjunction with Wilberg’s employment amendments, but on Thursday it was belatedly added to the closed agenda.

Wilberg is currently paid $197,716 annually plus a health and benefit package. His initial contract in 2004 was for a salary of $136,859. Additional benefits added since 2004 include a $550 monthly auto allowance and $600 monthly “for the purchase of CAlPERS Additional Retirement Service Credit.” 

The proposed amendments would be a gift to Wilberg at taxpayers’ expense, so the outcome may turn on whether the Council majority’s personal relationship with Wilberg eclipses business judgment. 

Gilbert note: Special thanks to the Dispatch for this report.

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