The San Mateo City Council tapped San Diego-based Zucker Systems to perform a management audit of the Community Development Department last night after a lengthy interview process that included two other firms.
The council directed City Manager Susan Loftus to execute a contract with Paul Zucker, who focuses solely on Community Development Departments, after weighing the merits of the three proposals.
Although all four of the councilmembers in attendance at last night’s meeting favored contracting with Zucker, it came as a bit of a surprise to Councilman Jack Matthews, who described Zucker as a bit of a “Lone Ranger.”
“I am surprised you all agreed,” he said to his colleagues. “I thought Zucker was the unlikely person to rise to the top.”
Zucker was in the hunt for the contract with San Jose-based Management Partners and Folsom-based Citygate Associates to conduct a review of the CDD following a series of “hiccups.”
Matthews graded all three high but Zucker earned the highest marks.
Mayor David Lim was also impressed with how Zucker answered the council’s questions compared to the others.
“I was surprised how impressed I was by Mr. Zucker. He had the thinnest packet and he showed up by himself,” Lim said.
The other groups had multiple groups address the council.
All three firms earned praise from most on the council and all three had previously done consulting work for the city.
Going into last night’s meeting, however, Matthews and Councilman Brandt Grotte were not in favor of conducting an audit, or consulting engagement as some in the public have described it.
The department may have had some “hiccups” — such as the controversial 7-Eleven on San Mateo Drive the council ultimately ruled was permitted to operate in error — but for the most part, Matthews said, the CDD’s work has been excellent, he told the Daily Journal last week.
Matthews also does not like the word “audit” to describe the work.
The council also discussed last night whether it should request proposals for a full-blown audit of the city’s affairs but decided against it.
Councilwoman Maureen Freschet was not at last night’s meeting.
Zucker will start his work in September just as CDD Director Lisa Grote will retire from the city.
Grote oversaw the department for the past three years but lost two key employees in the Planning Division, who quit their jobs in recent months, after the idea to conduct an audit of the department was announced.
Both were involved in the 7-Eleven decision that has landed the city in court against the corporate giant and the company it leases from Portfolio Development Partners.
Zucker said before he shows up to the city for the first time to start his work he must be provided with “a lot of data.”
Zucker will meet with all the department managers and then the rest of staff in separate meetings before questioning them in confidence, he said.
Zucker’s bid for the work was for $43,500 although that may go up depending on the scope of work.
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