Divided Santa Ana Council Gets Personal While Appointing New City Manager

City of Lynwood

Raul Godinez was chosen as the next city manager of Santa Ana.

A deeply divided Santa Ana City Council has narrowly appointed a new city manager and approved a compensation package worth nearly $500,000 per year, but the action highlighted personality conflicts among council members.

“This is probably the most political and divisive city council Santa Ana has had,” Councilwoman Michele Martinez said as the council debated the appointment. “Let’s be honest with each other. We really don’t like one another, and we really don’t trust one another.”

None of the other council members disagreed with her.

Raul Godinez, a former Santa Ana public works director who currently is the public works director of the much smaller city of Lynwood, was appointed Tuesday night  on a 4-3 vote with support from a group of council members who often are at odds with Mayor Miguel Pulido.

Pulido and his strongest allies on the council had backed a different candidate – Kristine Ridge, who serves as Anaheim’s assistant city manager – and voted against Godinez’ appointment and contract.

The new city manager will walk into a bitterly split City Council at a crossroads over major issues like police compensation, skyrocketing retirement costs, a severe shortage of open space for young people, an affordable housing crisis, homelessness, and how to hold police officers accountable.

The council members who appointed Godinez were Martinez, Sal Tinajero, Vicente Sarmiento, and David Benavides. The group has clashed not only with Pulido but also prominently with the president of the Santa Ana police officers’ union.

Voting against Godinez’ appointment and contract were Pulido, Jose Solorio, and Juan Villegas.

The new city manager will go from managing a few dozen employees in Lynwood to leading the more than 1,400 employees in Santa Ana, which has a $510 million total budget.

Santa Ana is home to about 341,000 people, about five times larger than Lynwood’s population of 72,000.

Under his new contract, Godinez will receive a $285,000 salary, plus an estimated $204,000 in benefits, totaling $489,000 in annual compensation.

That would make Godinez the second highest-compensated city manager in the state of California, ahead of larger cities like Anaheim (population 351,000), Long Beach (pop. 480,000), Sacramento (pop. 493,000), and Fresno (pop. 526,000), according to public data posted online by Transparent California.

Some of the state’s largest cities, like Los Angeles and San Diego, don’t have appointed city managers.

Godinez’ contract also forbids the City Council from firing him during the six months before or six months after elections in which council members are chosen. And if the council does fire him outside of that timeframe, Godinez is entitled to one-year’s severance totaling $489,000.

Solorio called the compensation “excessive,” while Pulido described the severance as a “golden parachute that we’re giving this…gentleman.”

Godinez’ supporters described the compensation as on par with what other cities pay their top executives. Tinajero said it was “was pretty standard for a city our size, to have that type of compensation package.”

Councilman David Benavides said the compensation is “not too far off” from what other city managers and school district superintendents make at large organizations. He cited Santa Ana Unified School District, which directly paid its superintendent $256,000 last year, with a total compensation package of $313,000. The package awarded to Godinez is worth $176,000 more per year.

Godinez’ supporters on the council said he has strong skills to stabilize the city workforce amid a turbulent time at the city.

“I do feel very confident that [Godinez] does have not only a lot of that municipal background, but also has the character and the personality to be able to lead, to lead well,” said Benavides. “And I’m looking forward to having him join the team here.”

Pulido and Villegas, meanwhile, said Godinez isn’t qualified enough for the job.

“He’s a nice guy…But you have to ask yourself, why is he the public works director from Lynwood at this time?” Pulido said. “It’s not [a] comparable job to the city of Santa Ana city manager…I have a problem with it.”

Villegas said: “At this moment, I believe that there’s other candidates more qualified than this, that are experienced more with development and economic development, and know how to deal with the homeless situation that we have here in the city that is so important. So I’m not supportive of this.”

Solorio said he supports Godinez for the city manager position – and said they successfully worked together when Solorio was a state assemblyman – but that he can’t support the contract terms.

“I believe he’s a good candidate, but the salary is excessive,” Solorio said.

Tinajero interjected from the other side of the council dais: “Yeah, but you didn’t mind paying off a severance to our last city manager. It didn’t bother you that it was taxpayer’s money.” He was referring to Solorio’s vote earlier this year for a severance of over $343,000 to oust the prior city manager, David Cavazos.

Solorio shot back: “[Cavazos] resigned. He left.”

Pulido emphasized the council would not be able to fire Godinez within six months of an election, and that he’d receive a one-year severance if fired at a time the council is allowed to fire him.

Tinajero again interrupted. “I would have asked for the same thing, comin’ to this city,” he said.

The council members who succeeded with their city manager pick called on the others to give Godinez a chance to succeed.

Sarmiento, speaking to Pulido and those who voted against Godinez, said: “I think all of us need to grow up, and realize that if there’s been problems in the past, we need to just put those aside, and work towards…betterment of the city”

Benavides said he hopes the council members who opposed Godinez’ appointment don’t “pout” and make things difficult for the new city manager, which he said would harm the public.

He added, regarding the council members who opposed Godinez’ appointment: “I hope that we choose maturity.”

Staff writer Spencer Custodio contributed to this article.

Nick Gerda covers county government and Santa Ana for Voice of OC. You can contact him at ngerda@voiceofoc.org.

  • David Resendez

    If Raul is smart, he’ll make sure NOT to appoint the police union’s lap dog (Valentin) as chief of police. Raul has to show he’s not beholden to the corrupt union and that he takes rooting out corruption seriously. While this will drive Solorio, Villegas & Pulido crazy (they each live off of the Union’s largess), the fact is the Union can’t be left in charge.

    Make us all proud, Raul. Do the right thing.

  • Fuji Shioura

    This is one reason of many why I created http://www.department.technology

  • Fuji Shioura

    As Governor I would definitely demand a thorough audit of city finances. http://www.fuji.vote

  • frustrated

    Santa Ana is home to about 341,000 people, about five times larger than Lynwood’s population of 72,000.

    Under his new contract, Godinez will receive a $285,000 salary, plus an estimated $204,000 in benefits, totaling $489,000 in annual compensation.

    THAT’S ONLY 10 GRAND LESS THAN THE TOTAL $500,000 BUDGET CONTRACT.

    • verifiedsane

      It’s only tax payer monies….let’s all watch it burn together…and be sure to bring some marsh-mellows 🙂

    • LFOldTimer

      SA has thousands of homeless sleeping on their streets and in their parks. Unaffordable housing for their residents. Crime up the wazoo. No decent jobs for their residents to lift them out of poverty. Yet they turn on the green sanctuary light for more indigent illiterate illegals to invade their city to steal more jobs, depress the wages, saturate their housing market driving up rents and to use resources that should go to US citizens and legal immigrants!!! lol.

      Then they wonder why their city is on the brink of bankruptcy and looks like a 3rd world war zone. Stupid is as stupid does!!!

      • justanon

        Again, you have NO PROOF or DATA to back up your allegation that Sanctuary City status has increased the number of undocumented immigrants in Santa Ana.

        Our “thousands of homeless” are not all homegrown, they migrate or are dumped in SA from other OC cities and beyond.The homeless stay in SA and Anaheim because there are more services and older cities tend to be more walkable/livable with downtowns as opposed to the newer suburb cities.

        As for your ignorant blather about “illegals stealing jobs”, BS!

        MYTH: Jobs filled by immigrants are jobs that could be filled by unemployed Americans.
        FACT: Immigrants typically do not compete for jobs with native-born workers, and immigrants create jobs as entrepreneurs, consumers, and taxpayers.

        Employment is not a “zero-sum” game. The U.S. economy does not contain a fixed number of jobs for which immigrants and native-born workers compete. For instance, if the 8.1 million undocumented immigrant workers now in the United States were removed from the country, there would not be 8.1 million job openings for unemployed Americans. The reason for this is two-fold. First, removing 8.1 million undocumented workers from the economy would also remove 8.1 million entrepreneurs, consumers, and taxpayers. This would cause the U.S. economy to lose jobs.

        Secondly, native-born workers and immigrant workers tend to possess different
        skills that often complement one another, and are therefore not interchangeable…..

        ….Immigrants do not “steal” jobs from American workers. Immigrants come to the United States to fill jobs that are available, or to establish their own businesses. Research has found that there is no correlation between immigration and high unemployment at the regional, state, or county level. Nor is there any correlation between immigration and high unemployment among minorities. Immigrants go where the jobs are, or they create jobs on their own.

        https://www.uschamber.com/sites/default/files/documents/files/022851_mythsfacts_2016_report_final.pdf

        • LFOldTimer

          Yeah, a city declares that it will protect and give sanctuary to illegal aliens from the law and it won’t attract more illegal aliens. HAH. I don’t even think you realize how absurd your comments are.

          Doesn’t matter where the homeless come from. There are many “homegrown” homeless living in OC. Illegals steal jobs and resources from homeless citizens and LEGAL immigrants. That’s a fact, jack.

          The US Chamber of Commerce is a front for cheap labor. That’s why the make excuses for illegal aliens.

          Illegal aliens have virtually captured the construction industry in California. Those were jobs that American citizens worked and provided shelter, food and clothing for their families with. Same with the manufacturing industry, the landscaping industry, the food and beverage industry, the leisure and hospitality industry – all jobs that US citizens are willing to work. Millions of jobs that US citizens worked have been stolen by illegals due to the ‘pay to play’ corruption between government and big business. This has resulted in more homeless on the US streets – and unaffordable housing and high rents since illegals need a place to live too. All facts,

          Why don’t you just go live south of the border? I think you’d be much happier there. Go see if you can get free medical care and steal a job down there! LOL!

          • justanon

            Why don’t you move to Alabama? Where you won’t have to see “illegals”, they obviously make your blood boil and cause you to conjure up phony ‘facts’ and ‘scenarios’.

            Personally, I’d rather live in SA with lots of undocumented immigrants than live in a city or state full of racist, hypocritical, ignorant, hate-mongering trump supporters!

    • I am not sure what budget contract you are referencing, but the city budget is $510,000,000.
      I am curious what Godinez is making in Lynwood? I am not sure if the city population totally relates to experience, but number of city employees does.

  • LFOldTimer

    “Michele Martinez said as the council debated the appointment. “Let’s be honest with each other. We really don’t like one another, and we really don’t trust one another.”

    Hey Michelle, I’ve got news for ya, dear. Most of us don’t like or trust any of you. You treated Cavazos like a stinking rock star. How did that turn out??? lol. You’ve turned SA into a stinking war zone. Every other day there’s another shooting or stabbing. 40% of your city is occupied by illegal aliens!!! lol. You’ve enabled that w/ your sanctuary declaration! Look what you did to Chief Rojas who tried to clean up some dirt in your 3rd world city. And you wonder why we consider your council a joke? Get a clue!

    • justanon

      More ignorant and hysteric rantings from the VOC’s resident bigot.

      You can’t provide any proof of your allegations yet freely connect one thing to another.

      Michelle Martinez was elected to the CC in 2006, in that time crime has gone up and down and up again, but it is no where near the levels it used to be in the 80’s and 90’s. Your “War zone” comment is just hyperbole on overdrive.

      You blame Sanctuary City status on the spike in crime, but SA didn’t declare Sanctuary City status until December of 2016 AFTER the spike in crime. Furthermore, it is a provable fact that undocumented residents commit crimes at a lower rate than other residents.

      Yes, 40% of SA’s population is undocumented, but that figure is derived from the 2010 census, do you have ANY DATA to back up your insinuation that SC status has increased SA’s percentage of undocumented residents?

      You praise Chief Rojas, but he was in charge from 2014-2017 and crime spiked in 2015 and 2016, how do you explain that?

      Why do you continue to make wild, foolish and unsupported allegations about people and things you know nothing about?

      • LFOldTimer

        You failed to address my comment that the SA Council totally blew it on the Cavazos appointment to CM. Why? Because you know I’m right. Now they spend another $500k on their insider buddy. Let’s see how that turns out? lol.

        SA is a war zone. Do you read the news?

        Oh yeah, Another one of your brilliant comments claiming sanctuary cities don’t attract illegals!!! LOL! Not even worth my time to respond.

        SA is a haven for illegal aliens. Has a nation, state or city ever prospered by importing indigent illiterate illegal foreigners? No wonder SA is fraught with problems – socially and fiscally.

        Chief Rojas tried to clean up a dirty PD and got slapped around for it. Go read his complaint.

        Why do you continue to badger me with your absurd retorts that I routinely dismantle? Because I voted for Trump? Let go of your hate.

        • justanon

          And you FAILED to back up ANY of your accusations with FACTS or DATA!

          As for Cavazos, in my experience with him, he got things done.

          “Has a nation, state or city ever prospered by importing indigent illiterate illegal foreigners? ”

          Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!!!!
          Yeah stupid, the USA, an ENTIRE NATION BUILT BY MOSTLY POOR UNEDUCATED IMMIGRANTS!

          You don’t like my badgering because I DEMAND FACTS and YOU just BLOW HOT AIR OUT OF YOUR REAR END!

          You’re the hater, but I guess in up-is-down world bigotry, ignorance and prejudice = love, lol!

          • LFOldTimer

            “Yeah stupid, the USA, an ENTIRE NATION BUILT BY MOSTLY POOR UNEDUCATED IMMIGRANTS!”

            They key word is “ILLEGAL” you brainstem! lol.

            If you hate America and Americans so much that you favor giving our jobs to illegal labor and allowing them to steal jobs from our homeless citizens – why do you even live here? MOVE!

            I choose to support my own national blood – regardless of their skin color. I’m not a traitor.

          • justanon

            Hey “brainstem” there didn’t used to be legal/illegal designations for most of the immigrants who built this country.
            That’s a phony distinction for you RACISTS to hang your hat on. This country was built by poor, uneducated immigrants.

            “I choose to support my own national blood”

            Yeah, I can just hear you chanting “blood and soil” with your N*zi friends. Creep!

  • frustrated

    “A deeply divided Santa Ana City Council has narrowly appointed a new city manager and approved a compensation package worth nearly $500,000 per year”.

    No jobs or housing structure in Orange County, 53,000 homeless on the streets in all of OC.
    Barbara Venenzia are you seeing this?

  • frustrated

    Well they just held about a 3 minute drill at the libraries and evacuated everybody when there is absolutely nothing going on, so I wonder how much of the taxpayers money they spent on that stupid excursion.
    “You’ll know there mister when you see that Texas Twister”.

  • David Zenger

    Well done. I’m sure everything is going to work out just fine.

    • RyanCantor

      BONUSES FOR EVERYONE!

      • verifiedsane

        sarcasm at it’s best 🙂