With only two weeks to go until its city manager retires, South San Francisco is scrambling to fill his position after a collapsed attempt to hire a former city manager.
The City Council will have an item on the agenda next week to select the recruiting firm to help choose a permanent city manager and soon announce the interim city manager to fill current city manager Barry M. Nagel’s role after he leaves Nov. 1.
The council considered the appointment of former city manager Jesús Armas for the role at its Sept. 11 meeting and continued to meet in closed session about his appointment, but recently decided not to go with him. The City Council has also decided to not continue working with the past recruiting firm, Peckham & McKenney, that selected the past pool.
The original pool was small and weak, said Councilman Mark Addiego. Addiego did find Armas to be a star in his work in Hayward and said it will be hard to find a candidate of that caliber. Addiego was disappointed with the focus on alleged past “sex escapades,” rather than Armas’ qualifications.
“What transpired was a poor vetting process,” Addiego said. “It was a mistake to send out a press release to tell the public about our selection before signing a contract. The evening he was set to sign a contract, there was a two-week gap from the release, and the situation in the community became that of whispers. The majority of the community lost its resolve.”
Some of the whispers in the community included 2012 reports in the Contra Costa Times about Armas’ role on the Hayward Unified School District Board of Trustees. During a July 25, 2012 board meeting, Trustee Luis Reynoso demanded Armas respond to a report on a website that Armas had an improper relationship with Trustee Maribel Heredia, according to the Contra Costa Times.
The council discovered some issues that had not been checked out prior to Armas’ recruitment, Councilman Pradeep Gupta said.
“Collectively as a council, we decided it’s better for the city to start with a fresh cycle,” Gupta said. “We don’t want to make the same error we did last time.”
The city is having a good deal of turnover with retirements and throughout San Mateo County alone there are many cities looking for city managers, said Mayor Pro Tem Karyl Matsumoto.
“We decided he wasn’t a match for us,” Matsumoto said. “We’re in the process of deciding on interim. Firms are all backed up with hiring openings across the state.”
Armas previously served as city manager from 1988 to 1993. He also worked as assistant city manager in Hayward from 1984 to 1988. He returned to Hayward and worked as its city manager in 1993 and stayed until 2007 when he moved to a consulting group.
Nagel served 35 years with the city and was city manager for nine years. He resigned June 30, but was asked to stay on until this fall.
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