After weeks of rumors that Santa Ana City Manager Paul Walters is being pushed out — and a public campaign led by Mayor Miguel Pulido to save Walters’ job — City Council members for the first time are set Jan. 22 to discuss firing him.
The closed session agenda of the regular council meeting is also the first acknowledgment from the council majority that they are considering ousting Walters. The agenda reads, “Public employee evaluation of performance and/or potential dismissal/release.”
City Hall observers believe Walters is being ousted as part of the council majority’s campaign to undercut Pulido’s longtime influence over the city bureaucracy. The council majority views Walters as too close to Pulido.
The mayor’s cultivation of top bureaucrats is seen as key to his control over the levers of power at City Hall. Pulido was close to the previous city manager, Dave Ream, and sources close to City Hall said he has a similar relationship with Walters.
Walters’ appointment as city manager more than six months ago was the result of a yearlong effort by Pulido to gather enough council votes.
According to several sources close to City Hall, Walters’ deadline to submit his resignation before the council majority fires him was last Friday. Walters did not resign.
Councilman Sal Tinajero described the discussion as a continuation of last month’s closed session to evaluate Walters’ performance. The scheduling of the December meeting, which occurred during the holiday week, ignited public speculation that Walters was being fired.
Tinajero said that whether to fire Walter is a “decision that is going to be made” at Monday’s meeting.
“I think we need to see what his plans are for the city,” Tinajero said.
“If they coincide with the direction the rest of the council thinks the city should be moving in, then things stay status quo. If the council decides to exercise its contractual rights, there will be a different decision.”
Pulido and other council members could not be immediately reached for comment.