Anaheim City Manager Bob Wingenroth late Tuesday announced his resignation effective June 7, thus ending a short tenure marked by a divided City Council and controversies such as tax subsidies and equal representation for minority neighborhoods.
Wingenroth could not immediately be reached for comment, but according to a city news release, he is leaving the city to be closer to family in Arizona, where he spent most of his life.
“Life has revealed the beauty and support of our family and extended family in Arizona, and their need for us and our need for them. I have thoroughly enjoyed my experience in Anaheim and meeting wonderful people throughout the city. I will miss everyone, and I am honored to have been a member of this wonderful community,” Wingenroth stated in the news release.
Wingenroth was the city's finance director before being appointed acting city manager in November 2011. It wasn't long before he drew fire for opposing a controversial $158-million room tax subsidy for the developer of two four-star hotels near the GardenWalk outdoor mall in the resort district.
The subsidy controversy turned out to be the initial crack in what has become a bitter split on the City Council between Mayor Tom Tait and the council majority on a variety of issues. Most recently, Tait's colleagues — Kris Murray, Gail Eastman, Lucille Kring and Jordan Brandman — refused to restore funding to preserve a policy aide position in the mayor's office.
Despite the turmoil, Wingenroth's decision caught many City Hall watchers by surprise, because he had recently purchased a home in the city.
It is the latest in a series of recent high-level departures at City Hall.
Police Chief John Welter last week announced that he would be stepping down May 16. Welter said he wanted to spend more time with family while he was still healthy and denied that his resignation was related to last year's civil unrest following a string of police shootings.
Before that, the council majority ousted City Attorney Cristina Talley. Some sources close to City Hall say Talley's demise was at least in part due to a sense among members of the council majority that she had favored Tait's positions in her legal advice.
Talley and Wingenroth were known to be close. “I think the loss of Cristina Talley was especially hard for him,” said former Councilwoman Lorri Galloway.
In the city news release, Tait praised Wingenroth's “integrity, ethics and compassion.”
“I know this was a difficult decision for him,” Tait stated in the news release. “I join everyone at City Hall in saying we will miss him, and we wish him and his family all the very best."
Galloway said the acrimony between council members and the mayor is what ultimately drove Wingenroth to resign. Galloway, who was Tait's only ally on the council before she stepped down in December, said the discord has caused morale in the city manager's office to sink.
Wingenroth was known for his bright and compassionate personality. In an interview Wednesday, Murray said he is a “genuinely good man who cares deeply about public service” and “it has been a pleasure and an honor to serve with him.”
But Galloway said he was sensitive to conflict on a level that physically pained him. “People don't like to be on the seventh floor; people can feel the tension. You can cut it with a knife. It is awful. It is absolutely terrible. And this city manager could not deal with it,” Galloway said.
Murray rejected that characterization, saying council members and the mayor disagree on few matters and that those differences don't reflect on their relationship with city staff.
“I just think it's blatantly false and very unfortunate to spread that malicious comment anywhere,” Murray said.
Council members Jordan Brandman and Lucille Kring could not be immediately be reached for comment.
It isn't yet known who will take over for Wingenroth. The news release states that council members will decide their next steps “at a future date.”