2012-04-11 / Front Page

Perrodin and Zurita debate city manager vacancy

By Chris Frost
Bulletin Staff Writer

COMPTON—Mayor Eric J. Perrodin and Councilwoman Janna Zurita traded jabs at the Tuesday, April 3, City Council meeting over the hiring of a permanent city manager.

Zurita, who praised interim City Manager Bryan Batiste for his hard work in past meetings, is now looking for an accelerated Council agenda to find his replacement.

“We are in a search for a permanent city manager,” Zurita said. “The Brown Act (guaranteeing the public’s right to attend and participate in meetings of local legislative bodies) says we can only discuss the position when it is on the city agenda. Now we cannot discuss it because we have interview scheduling conflicts.”

She asked City Attorney Craig Cornwell if the item can be placed on the agenda each week, so the item can be discussed.

“Clearly everyone, including Batiste, understands that we are looking for a new city manager,” Zurita said. “Putting this on the agenda is not offensive and there is no harm done from this action. We need to discuss it.”

Cornwell agreed with Zurita, but said there are some exceptions to the rule.

“ The Brown Act says you cannot discuss matters that are not on the agenda, but you can respond to statements during Council comments, and Council members can set a date to discuss matters at a future Council meeting,” he said.

Perrodin said the city hired executive search firm Alliance on the recommendation of former interim City Manager Lamont Ewell.

“They initially brought us 30 candidates, and the Council whittled it down to the top five,” he said. “We interviewed them and picked three finalists.”

That happened two months ago, Perrodin said, and the process stalled.

“To my chagrin we did not appoint the top candidate at the time,” he said. “In the meantime one of the finalists removed himself from the list.”

Perrodin said there are rules of law the Council must follow regarding closed session.

“You cannot have a rotating closed session to discuss nothing, something must be scheduled,” he said. “That is a violation of the Brown Act, and I am not going to be part of anything that violates the law. We scheduled a meeting for April 12, but one Council member will be out of town, and I said no to a meeting on Good Friday.”

The group voted in closed session during its March 27 meeting to extend the city manager search and add two more candidates.

“I cast the lone no vote,” Perrodin said.

He commented on his vote to hire Compton Deputy Fire Chief Bryan Batiste as interim city manager, and told everyone he voted no.

“I am a straight shooter, and Mr. Batiste does an adequate job as city manager,” Perrodin said. “We recently lost a top candidate because we did not act. If we continue that practice the only people to choose from will be the bottom of the barrel.”

Recent comments about negative information regarding candidates, Perrodin said, can be found by a Google search.

“When you are in public service there are going to be negative stories,” he said.

Perrodin said the city paid the recruiting firm to prescreen the candidates and find the best people possible.

“Going through the process and not hiring anyone is a waste of taxpayer money,” he said. “If we are going to pick someone let’s do it. If not, we need to tell Batiste that he is the city manager. Mr. Batiste is on the clock.”

Batiste holds a classified job with the fire department, and he loses his right to return to his former position on July 27.

“ That is true, if I let it happen,” Batiste said.

The next City Council meeting is on Tuesday, April 17.

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