Santa Ana, which has been without a city attorney since Joe Fletcher left in December, has narrowed the search for his replacement to two candidates.

And city officials are planning a town hall meeting to hear residents’ opinions on what qualities the successor to former City Manager Dave Ream‘s should have.

The departures of Fletcher and Ream were part of a major turnover in city leadership over the past year. Cindy Nelson, head of the Community Development Agency, announced her retirement in January.

While word on Fletcher’s replacement should be coming soon, it will be many months before a new city manager is hired, council members said.

About two dozen candidates applied for the city attorney position, said Councilman Vincent Sarmiento. A council subcommittee, composed of Sarmiento and council members Carlos Bustamante and Claudia Alvarez, has been narrowing down the field, Sarmiento said.

Sarmiento and Councilman David Benavides acknowledged that such hiring decisions will have far-reaching impacts on the city.

“We haven’t had an opportunity to select a city manager in two decades,” Sarmiento said. “We’re going to take it very seriously and be as thoughtful and analytical as we can.”

Added Benavides: “The decisions that are being made are setting up a foundation leading the city into the next decade and beyond.”

The City Council has, at times, had difficulty complying with the state’s open meeting law, the Ralph M. Brown Act.

When asked whether council members were looking for a city attorney who would exercise greater caution under the open meeting law, Sarmiento said it was a basic question.

“Any city attorney has to be fluent in FPPC [Fair Political Practices Commission] law and obviously the Brown Act. That’s been a prerequisite question of all the applicants that have come before,” Sarmiento said.

There could also be a difference of opinion on the City Council as to the applicant pool.

While some want to give equal opportunity to candidates from outside the city, Mayor Miguel Pulido tends toward promoting employees within the city, Benavides said.

The city has put a survey on its website that asks residents to rank the city’s challenges, government and leadership values, among other issues in order of importance.

Additionally, some council members will soon hold a community forum to discuss the search for a city manager, Sarmiento said.


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