Anaheim City Council members met in two closed sessions this week to interview candidates for city manager, according to Councilwoman Lorri Galloway.
The city had conducted a nationwide search that yielded more than 20 applicants, Galloway said. After vetting, however, five remained and were interviewed by council members.
Interim City Manager Bob Wingenroth is among the five candidates, Galloway said.
Last November the council appointed Wingenroth, who was the city’s finance director, after then City Manager Thomas Wood announced his resignation. Wood’s departure was the third resignation of a high-level city official after Voice of OC investigations raised conflict of interest questions regarding the city’s building division.
Wingenroth’s appointment was perhaps the first fracture in a council split that was cemented when the council voted 3-2 to grant a controversial $158-million tax subsidy to a hotel developer. Councilwoman Kris Murray, who had voted for the subsidy, was the only council member to vote against Wingenroth’s appointment.
Wingenroth’s tenure has been one focal point of the council divide. Councilman Harry Sidhu had blasted Wingenroth and Mayor Tom Tait for opening the council chambers several days after the subsidy vote for an impromptu town hall meeting, providing a glimpse into some of the behind-the-scenes jabbing over Wingenroth’s role in the debate. Wingenroth had recommended against the subsidy in a staff report, saying it would create an unsustainable precedent.
The council is not yet close to appointing a permanent city manager, Galloway said. She could not comment on the details of the interviews, because closed session meetings are confidential, she said.
Tait and Murray also declined to comment, citing the confidentiality of closed sessions. Councilwoman Gail Eastman and Sidhu could not be immediately reached for comment.
Anaheim isn’t the only city without a permanent city manager.
Santa Ana, Orange County’s second largest city, has relied on interim City Manager Paul Walters for nearly a year.
By comparison, Anaheim is far more advanced in its recruiting efforts. Santa Ana’s national search for a city manager was suspended twice to focus on steering the city through a massive budget crisis.
Since Santa Ana stepped back from the brink of fiscal disaster, the city has yet to restart its search. Sources close to City Hall say there is an ongoing debate about whether to appoint Walters to the slot without resuming the national search.