A search to replace retired Santa Ana City Manager Dave Ream has been suspended indefinitely, Mayor Miguel Pulido announced during the City Council’s Oct. 17 meeting.
The announcement came after council members returned to the dais from a 2½-hour closed session in which Councilwoman Michele Martinez fell ill. She said later she was suffering from low blood sugar.
The indefinite postponement of the city manager search leaves the city’s top administrative position in the hands of Police Chief Paul Walters, who has been serving as interim city manager since Ream retired after 25 years at the helm.
Council members ducked reporters after the meeting and declined to comment on the frozen city manager search. They made no comment during the meeting on Martinez’ condition other than that paramedics had arrived to treat her.
Later, Martinez said she low blood sugar had caused her to faint during a closed-session discussion of ongoing labor negotiations. “I closed my eyes, and for a minute I wasn’t there,” Martinez said. “For a while I couldn’t open my eyes.”
Martinez is known to be passionate about certain issues and has been seen storming out of closed session meetings. She is an outspoken proponent of a nationwide search to replace Ream. But Martinez said her fainting spell was the result of not eating all day, not because of emotions.
The mayor’s announcement adds to months of confusion surrounding the city manager search. Bob Murray & Associates, the firm that was conducting the nationwide search for Ream’s successor, was told by a city official in July to suspend the process. At least three council members said they had no knowledge of the directive.
After a Voice of OC story on the first suspension, council members decided to shift attention to the city the budget and said they would resume the search in November.
The suspension once again spotlights the behind-the-scenes maneuvering regarding replacements for Ream and former City Attorney Joe Fletcher, who left the city’s employ late last year in circumstances that remain unclear.
Pulido prefers to promote people he knows from within Santa Ana city government, Councilman David Benavides has said. Pulido’s first choice for city attorney was Joe Straka, who is temporarily holding the job, but Straka isn’t among the final candidates, according to sources close to City Hall.
The name of the leading candidate for city attorney — Maribel Medina — was leaked to local blogger Art Pedroza in what sources close to City Hall said was a move orchestrated by Pulido to derail the council’s first choice.
The job was offered to Medina and another candidate more than three months ago, but still no one has been hired.
— ADAM ELMAHREK