Palo Alto will name an acting public works director within two weeks, City Manager James Keene said in a statement this morning (Oct. 19), in which he defended a six-month severance pay package for retiring Public Works Director Glenn Roberts.
Keene said the City Council action in closed session Monday night allowed Roberts to retire and Keene to "begin the search for Glenn's replacement."
In circumstances that strongly suggest a forced departure, Roberts will retire at the end of this year and will spend the rest of the year on administrative leave, effective immediately, the City Council announced about midnight Monday.
Roberts was not at the meeting.
In his statement, Keene acknowledged Roberts' tenure with the city: "Glenn Roberts has a long career of public service and has served this city for 18 years. I would like to acknowledge him for his years of service to the City of Palo Alto and wish him the best in this next phase in his life," Keene said.
Keene emphasized that the severance was not because of any claim filed by Roberts, echoing a city attorney's office statement earlier that no claim had been filed in spite of a "significant exposure to litigation" listed as a reason for the closed personnel session by the council.
"In response to some reports, I want to make it clear that this agreement is not the result of a claim filed by Glenn Roberts," Keene said.
"The six month's severance pay in this agreement is similar to the standard built into contracts for other Department Directors on the City's Executive Leadership Team," Keene said.
"The administrative leave approved allows Glenn to retire, effective December 30, but also permits me to begin to plan the transition in the Department immediately. I intend to name an acting Director of Public Works in the next two weeks."
Roberts was criticized last year for his department's handling of the tree removal operation on California Avenue. In September 2009, workers felled 63 holly oaks without waiting the mandated 14-day period. Roberts disclaimed knowing about the order in advance.
In July, Roberts again found himself in the hot seat after Public Works officials discovered a $6.7 million deficit in the city's Refuse Fund -- after Roberts' department listed a reserve of more than $6 million but neglected to tell the council that under state regulations it had to be kept for closure of the landfill. The council last month approved rate increases and cost-cutting measures at the city's landfill to help close the budget gap.
Several years ago, Roberts strongly advocated creating a major recycling operation known as the "Environmental Services Center," that was to be housed in a large metal building near the city's wastewater treatment plant on land dedicated for parkland once the landfill operation ends in the next year or so.
The ESC proposal -- significantly different than the present, partially below-ground-level plan for a composting operation -- divided environmentalists and community members until it was voted down by the City Council.
Roberts' 2009 salary was $179,902, city records show. The city expects to release a full statement about Roberts' retirement and terms of the city's agreements with Roberts before noon today (Tuesday, Oct. 19).