East Palo Alto plans to look for a new city manager to replace current manager Magda Gonzalez, the City Council indicated at its Tuesday, July 15, meeting.
The council met in closed session Monday to discuss Gonzalez's contract, which expires Oct. 21. Though council members were precluded from talking publicly about the contents of their closed session discussion, after being pressed by a member of the public regarding whether Gonzalez resigned or is being replaced, they referred comment to City Attorney John Nagel, who said that the council will discuss hiring a recruitment professional to find another manager.
Mayor Laura Martinez called for a special meeting for July 22 to discuss retaining a professional headhunter to complete this process.
Before the closed session, an overflow crowd of residents came to City Hall to express their displeasure with Gonzalez's actions as city manager and demand her termination.
Gonzalez has come under fire for an alleged lack of transparency, particularly when she considered possibly contracting police services with the San Mateo County Sheriff and for an audit of the city's Rent Stabilization Program.
The latter incident caused a firestorm of protest after it was revealed that the auditors interviewed three representatives of two large landlords but not any tenants about the rent program. Rent board member Shyree Randolph, a tenant, was interviewed by the consultant, but only in her capacity on the board and not as a tenant, she has said.
The audit targeted Rent Stabilization Program Administrator Carol Lamont, accusing her of being biased in favor of tenants. Lamont strongly refuted the allegations and resigned in March in protest. Her last day was May 10.
Statewide tenants' rights group Tenants Together obtained 3,000 pages of city documents through the California Public Records Act, some of which purported to show that the audit was biased in favor of the landlords, which included the city's largest, Equity Residential (EQR).
Some documents appeared to show a close relationship between Gonzalez and EQR, including an email that tipped the developer to three tenants' rights ordinances. The email was not sent to any tenant groups.
Gonzalez told the Weekly last week that Tenants Together "cherry picked" the documents. She defended her record of support for the rights of under-served communities over the years and said she fully supports the rent program.
Gonzalez, a former Redwood City deputy city manager, has served as city manager since she was named to the position in 2012. She did not return a request for comment Tuesday.
Maureen Larsson, a rent stabilization board member, said she believes that Gonzalez misjudged the will of the people.
"Any city manager who appears to undermine two of the fundamental reasons for East Palo Alto's incorporation -- to determine who polices us, and laws to protect residents from the abuse of exploitative landlords -- isn't a good fit with the city's culture," she said.