New head of East Palo Alto rent program resigns | News | Palo Alto Online |


New head of East Palo Alto rent program resigns

Rent Stabilization Program loses top official after less than two weeks

East Palo Alto's new Rent Stabilization Program administrator, George Montano, has resigned less than two weeks after his introduction to the rent board, City Manager Magda Gonzalez has confirmed. The resignation is yet another blow for the rent program, which lost its longtime head, Carol Lamont, in May.

Lamont resigned in March to protest an unflattering audit of her program commissioned by Gonzalez. The consultant's audit accused her of bias in favor of tenants. Rent Stabilization Board and City Council members, residents and tenants' groups blasted the audit as a "hit piece" on Lamont. The audit interviewed only two of the city's largest landlords and no tenants about Lamont's performance, city documents show.

Montano, a housing and redevelopment manager for the city of Hawaiian Gardens in southern California, was introduced to the rent board at its July 9 meeting as the new administrator. But less than two weeks later, he resigned, according to a staff memo provided to the Weekly.

Montano could not be reached for comment. During questioning by rent board members during the meeting, he was asked if he understood the community climate in East Palo Alto regarding the rent program. He steadfastly maintained that he would not be bent by his boss -- the city manager -- regarding how to administer the program.

Gonzalez came under fire for the audit and for a set of emails between her and the city's largest landlord, Equity Residential, that purportedly showed she was biased in favor of landlords. As a result, on July 14, dozens of residents demanded her termination prior to a City Council closed session during which council members discussed Gonzalez's contract. Gonzalez maintains that she supports the rent ordinance and denies any special consideration for landlords.

But the council announced the next day, July 15, that it plans to seek a new manager rather than renew Gonzalez's contract, which ends on Oct. 21.

More fallout followed the next day. Rent board Vice Chair Christopher Peter, an Equity Residential representative, was notified that he was deemed to have resigned for missing too many meetings, Montano noted in a memo prepared for the board's July 23 meeting. A member of an advisory board who misses more than three consecutive regular meetings or 25 percent of an advisory body's meetings in a calendar year is considered to have resigned, according to East Palo Alto municipal code.

The board was to elect a new vice chair on Wednesday, but the meeting was canceled due to Montano's resignation and the unavailability of city staff to conduct the meeting, according to a city memo.

Gonzalez is looking at options for Montano's replacement, she said in an email to the Weekly on Wednesday.

"I am interested in filling the position as soon as possible," she wrote.

Related content:

Tenants' rights group demands East Palo Alto records

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Like this comment
Posted by EPAMom
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 24, 2014 at 10:50 am

Once again someone from well outside EPA was hired to perform a function very specific to the location, history, and culture of EPA. There are many local people capable of filling this job. Why is a lame duck City Manager appointing someone to do a job she has clearly tried to thwart in the past? Where is the City Attorney?

Like this comment
Posted by EPA Shoulld Return To SMC
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 24, 2014 at 11:04 am

Hiring local people to administer local programs often results in very lop-sided administration--such as a view that land lords are evil, have no rights, and tenets should be able to prevail in all disputes.

Organizations that do not rotate management frequently, and import new employees from outside the organization, and even the jurisdicution serviced by the organization, will become, over time, ineffective and even possibly corrupt.

It certainly did not take long for this man to see the light--which certainly revolves centrally around the culture of EPA.

This is a culture that can not govern itself honestly, or effectively. In the last year they have lost a police chief, a city manager, and now two administrators for their antiquated notion of rent control.

This town really should consider returning to San Mateo County [portion removed.]

Like this comment
Posted by ?
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jul 24, 2014 at 11:08 am

Why do we continue to get news on EPA? They are in a different county, not part of Palo Alto. This just continues the belief that they are the east part of Palo Alto. Why isn't there continual coverage of other cities who are in other counties too? [Portion removed.]

Like this comment
Posted by Don
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 24, 2014 at 11:18 am

Sadly, the rent board members have forced him to resign. When will the EPA Council do something to stop the bullying from the rent board. The rent board has gone too far. It's so obvious the rent board wants the old administrator back.

Like this comment
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 24, 2014 at 11:34 am

> Why do we continue to get news on EPA?

That is an interesting question that has also occurred to me over time.

What is the perception from people, do we get more East Palo Alto news
than Mountain View or Menlo Park news?

Some stories are normal and important, and some stories seem too have a different
reasoning. There are several East Palo Altos in a way. There is the spillover
from very expensive areas of Palo Alto into differing neighborhoods, then
there are areas of gentrification, and poor areas, and even crime ridden areas,
but to mention that seems like some kind of taboo.

It certainly seems different in kind as in virtually every story to do with
East Palo Alto there is some accusation of racism involved, and the
differences in the two cities seems too touchy to acknowledge.

Like this comment
Posted by Memories
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 24, 2014 at 11:54 am

Don - [Portion removed.] Did it ever occur to you that his resigning has to do with the poor management of the city, or that the city manager is leaving soon? Or maybe he simply got a better offer.

How could the board force him to resign when they only had one meeting with him? Those are public meetings, and no actions as such were on the agenda, and currently, the board doesn't have that authority.

Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 24, 2014 at 12:20 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

EPAMom - the specific knowledge and experience needed to run a program like this is not likely to be found with EPA residents, unless they've worked in the housing sector. One of the candidates was an EPA resident. Some of the most important qualities needed, in addition to the obvious are dedication, people skills, respect for the laws and processes, patience and an incredible attention to detail.

There isn't enough info to opine of Montano's leaving being beneficial or detrimental. I am very sorry for this upheaval. It can all be tied to Magda Gonzalez and the poor job that she has done with this sector of city government.

I wonder about the other candidates that were interviewed, and if any of them will be considered - and are still available? It is a serious problem that this program is *still* under the city manager's responsibility. She has lost credibility in the housing sector and is being watched very, very carefully.

And for those on the city council reading comments: Note that Mayor Martinez and Councilman Moody being against Abrica's motion won't be forgotten. I hope that Martinez never runs for office again. She is an embarrassment for protecting Gonzalez and attempting to hang Abrica out to dry time and again.

Like this comment
Posted by Keep Neighbor News Coming!
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 24, 2014 at 1:22 pm

I think it's very important that we have news about what our neighbors are doing. Please, just don't read an article, if you are not interested.

Neighboring cities are a 10 minute drive to Palo Alto, and what goes on in these communities very much affects us here, in terms of quality of life, traffic, safety, etc.

The Weekly should be thanked for keeping us posted on items such as this one and I agree that positions ought to be awarded to those that know this area. Bringing in people from across the state, or in Palo Alto, from across the country, may not be the best direction in which to head, for the field of public service work.

Like this comment
Posted by Dennis
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jul 24, 2014 at 2:00 pm

[Post removed.]

Like this comment
Posted by Sundance
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 24, 2014 at 3:03 pm

[Post removed due to referencing a previously deleted comment.]

Like this comment
Posted by Balance
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 24, 2014 at 3:13 pm

[Post removed due to referencing a previously deleted comment.]

Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 24, 2014 at 10:10 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

I checked around. The rent board doesn't know why he resigned, and they had nothing to do with it. They also had no part in the removal of Chris Peter from the rent board. Someone at the city did that and the board doesn't have the authority to remove members. Perhaps it had something to do with the administrator's resignation, perhaps not. Perhaps the administrator received an offer that he preferred and took that. I don't know what can and can't be made public, or what will be made public. Here's the timeline as I understand it:

*July 7 rent board gets notification that there was a new guy hired
*July 9 rent board has meeting and meets new guy
*9 days later, last Friday, new guy resigns, effective immediately
*This week, rent board is told he resigned and this week's board meeting was cancelled

It's not clear how much the city council has been told, either, or if they're allowed to know why.

Another screw up by Magda Gonzalez. This whole mess - the police dept not having a chief, the rent control program, the senior center dust up - all resulting from Gonzalez not knowing about or caring to know about the city's history, culture and priorities. In my opinion, the emails from Gonzalez about the program show her bias against the program and her deliberately misdirecting staff in order to circumvent the program's rules.

Like this comment
Posted by Al Barlevy
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 25, 2014 at 9:50 am

Al Barlevy is a registered user.

to Hmmm: "Note that Mayor Martinez and Councilman Moody being against Abrica's motion won't be forgotten."

"won't be forgotten" by whom? probably Councilmember Abrica. Moody and Martinez had a legitimate disagreement with Abrica on whether or not to have city staff coordinate the hiring of an interim city manager. Martinez and Moody thought that this should be coordinated by an outside firm because city staff is "stretched thin" (Moody's words). There is absolutely nothing inappropriate about such a legitimate difference of opinion.

As for "I hope that Martinez never runs for office again. She is an embarrassment for protecting Gonzalez and attempting to hang Abrica out to dry time and again." If Martinez does decide to run again in 2016 the voters can certainly decide whether they want take into account her "attempting to hang Abrica out to dry". I suspect most voters would care about what has she done for the city, rather than has she hurt the feelings of another councilmember.

Like this comment
Posted by Al Barlevy
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 25, 2014 at 10:13 am

Al Barlevy is a registered user.

To Hmmm: I cannot see how George Montano's resignation could possibly be "another screw up by Magda Gonzalez". Now that Gonzalez is a lame duck, if Montano had any issues with her, all he had to do was run out the clock to October 21, when Gonzalez' contract runs out, and then he wouldn't have to deal with her. Therefore, I would suspect that Montano decided to resign for other reasons.

What else are you going to blame on Magda Gonzalez? Global warming? the war between Israel and Hamas? the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight 17 over the skies of Ukraine?

Lets get serious here.

Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 25, 2014 at 7:23 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

Either Magda's getting kicked out of her job made him nervous and he wanted to leave, or they clashed, or he got a better offer. Either way, it's yet ANOTHER screw up on her watch. She hired him, and she lost him. [Portion removed.]

Since council's going on recess next month, it wasn't likely they could execute a contract with the right search firm for an interim, so it's best for staff to figure out a chunk of it while the council's on recess. That's why it was stupid for Martinez and Moody to vote against that motion. And yeah, voters like me remember this stuff. It has nothing to do with hurting a council member's feelings. [Portion removed.] Martinez' appearance of protecting Magda doesn't look good at all to the public.

I've lived here for a long, long time. Before I lived here, I worked here. I've seen many bad city managers, and Gonzalez is one of them. I've see bad mayors, and Martinez is one of them. [Portion removed.]

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