The rumor mill was cranking last week at Santa Ana City Hall after the posting of the agenda for Monday’s City Council meeting, which showed that council members will meet behind closed doors to discuss appointing a new city manager.
There have been whispers in recent months that the City Council will make interim City Manager Paul Walters — who is also police chief — the permanent city manager, a move that would show Mayor Miguel Pulido still firmly controls the city’s political dynamics, insiders say.
But they could be only whispers.
Councilman Sal Tinajero said this week that he wasn’t aware the city manager appointment would be on the council agenda. “That seems odd to me that it would be the agenda,” he said. Tinajero says he wants to continue the national search.
“I haven’t even received a phone call from the mayor about what this is about. It’s highly unlikely that it’s [Walters’ appointment] going to happen.”
Pulido and Councilwoman Claudia Alvarez both back Walters, say sources close to City Hall. But other council members, including Tinajero, Michele Martinez and David Benavides, have made it clear they want to vet a pool of candidates.
Those council members pushed for a national search to replace former City Manager Dave Ream, who retired last year after 32 years of service. But the search was suspended twice to focus on moving the city through its ongoing budget crisis, council members had said.
Benavides said it remains the council’s intent to resume the search.
“We paid tens of thousands of dollars to do a search, and it would be a terrible waste to not use the data, the resumes we received for that position — especially in light of the tight budget situation, the shortfall in revenue, to not wisely use the tax dollars we’ve invested,” Benavides said.
“I think it would send a very negative message that we just waste their [taxpayers’] money and their resources.”
When Voice of OC reached Pulido by phone, the mayor hung up without comment.
— ADAM ELMAHREK