With little fanfare, the Eureka City Council this week approved a $170,000 contract for incoming City Manager Dean Lotter
, who is scheduled to take over the job from a retiring Greg Sparks by Dec. 20.
Other than a question about the extent of his background check from Councilmember Kim Bergel, who commented that she was “really looking forward to working with Mr. Lotter” but added that “parts of the process really bothered” her, the item passed with unanimously with little discussion 4-0.
Councilmember Heidi Messner and Mayor Susan Seaman were absent from Tuesday’s meeting.
In a Thursday interview, Bergel tells the Journal
that she was referring to “a couple of things” about the hiring process, including what felt liked a “rushed” council discussion on the final decision because fellow Councilmember Natalie Arroyo was on a tight timeline due to being on active U.S. Coast Guard duty.
But, she noted, that was no one’s fault and she felt Lotter’s selection was an “easy decision.”
Bergel says she believes the recruiting firm should also have instituted a more rigorous background check given the importance of the city manager position.
When Bergel asked about the process during Tuesday’s meeting, Sparks said he didn’t bring his notes but that the background check included credit, federal criminal registries, sex registries, reference checks and a “Google-type check.”
Sparks said he did undergo a more rigorous background process when hired by the city but that was directed by the council at the time, which had a “red flag” raised after his predecessor, Bill Panos, left after just nine months on the job, with checkered moments in his prior employment history coming to light after the fact.
In other businesses, the council also confirmed the local emergency declaration Sparks made Oct. 11 in response to the Oct. 8 Public Safety Power Shutoff
initiated by PG&E.
Sparks told the council that the city was “in the process of reaching out to the business community to determine as much as we can the exact nature of the losses.”
When Councilmember Austin Allison asked for an estimate, Sparks replied that he hadn’t asked for the latest numbers before coming into the meeting but listed a few examples.
City Clerk Pam Powell told the council the most up-to-date figure she had was $209,000 in losses reported by 32 Eureka businesses.
Sparks told the council that the hope was to seek out “any potential funds that might be available” to help offset the economic impacts of the outage.