Amid swirling rumors that members of the Santa Ana City Council majority have asked City Manager Paul Walters to resign by Friday, the city’s chief bureaucrat declared Thursday that he plans to remain in the top slot for five to six years.
Walters at first declined comment when asked about his possible resignation. City spokesman Jose Gonzalez, however, called Voice of OC afterward to relay the message from Walters that he has no plan to resign.
Walters has remained virtually silent on the issue since the controversy erupted over his uncertain fate, which has dominated city politics in recent weeks.
Previously Walters had said only that he serves at the pleasure of the council. His stance now suggests a more optimistic view about his future as top bureaucrat.
City Hall observers believe Walters is being pushed out as part of a council majority campaign to undercut longtime Mayor Miguel Pulido’s 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 Pulido 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.
Sources close to City Hall say that members of the council majority have told Walters that his deadline to submit a resignation plan before the council fires him is Friday.
Yet there are conflicting accounts of the issue.
Walters’ wife, Mary Walters, has said that the council majority asked him to resign and is the target of a “witch hunt.”
Councilwoman Michele Martinez, however, said that she has not told Walters he must resign.
Other members of the council majority — part of a “Santa Ana Spring” movement pledging to restore democracy and bring transparency at City Hall — have not returned phone calls seeking comment or could not be reached immediately.
City Hall sources said the council majority was angered by a display of public support for Walters at this week’s council meeting, during which nearly 100 people spoke in favor of keeping Walters as city manager.
At least some of the speakers were believed to have been alerted by Pulido.
After the meeting, the Orange County Register reported that former Assembly candidate Francisco Barragan said he overheard Pulido on his cell phone telling someone that the council majority is considering firing Walters.
That contention drew sharp responses from council members Vincent Sarmiento, Sal Tinajero and Martinez, who questioned whether Pulido violated the Brown Act, which makes it illegal for council members to leak details of closed session discussions.