Kristine Ridge Set to Become Next Santa Ana City Manager

City of Laguna Niguel

Current Laguna Niguel City Manager Kristine Ridge is being considered by the Santa Ana City Council as its permanent City Manager.

Santa Ana City Council members will vote Tuesday on appointing Kristine Ridge as the new city manager, as the city faces a leadership vacuum that began three months ago with the deputy city manager leaving for another city and City Manager Raul Godinez pushed out by the mayor and other council members.

Ridge, the current Laguna Niguel city manager, is a former Anaheim deputy city manager and finalist for Santa Ana city manager in 2017. She’s been Mayor Miguel Pulido’s top choice for the last two rounds of city manager selections, and Pulido reportedly began advocating for Ridge again when he and other council members were ousting Godinez in mid-December.

Ridge and Pulido didn’t return messages seeking comment.

In the run-up to Godinez being hired as city manager in October 2017, Pulido and his strongest allies on the council backed Kristine Ridge and voted against Godinez’ appointment and contract .

Ridge’s hiring has been weeks in the works, with City Council members working toward hiring Ridge during their Feb. 19 closed session. Pulido and councilmen Juan Villegas and David Penaloza recommend hiring Ridge on a $385,000-per-year contract for three years, according to the city staff report.

Santa Ana council members opted not to do a broad search for a new city manager, as the city has done in the past. Instead, the mayor and other council members advocated for the particular city manager candidate they preferred, according to people close to the council.

City Council members are also scheduled Tuesday to vote on an appointment to the vacant Ward 4 council seat formerly held by Roman Reyna, who agreed to resign to avoid a civil trial over whether he falsified his residency and was ineligible for the seat.

Candidates who have gained attention in political circles are Planning Commissioner Kenneth Nguyen; Phil Bacerra, who was Reyna’s opponent in November; and Jennifer Oliva, a longtime friend of Penaloza whom he appointed to the city’s Arts and Culture Commission.

City staff say Ridge’s potential three-year contract for nearly $385,000 in total annual pay, plus Godinez’ $400,000 payout and remaining leave pay owed to three former employees of the City Manager’s office, would exceed the city’s existing budget amounts.

Paying for it all would require an extra $64,000 from the city’s taxpayer general fund through a mid-year budget change, according to the staff report.

Such a funding adjustment would require a five-vote supermajority by the council. The council has been unable to gather that many votes for a similar budget change to fund this year’s $4.3 million cost of police raises granted by council members in February – which was supported by four but not five council members.

Ridge’s total compensation under the contract would rise in her second year from about $385,000 to about $389,000. Her base salary would be $290,000 per year.

The contract doesn’t have a severance provision, which was included in Godinez’ contract. Council members would be able to fire Ridge on a supermajority vote of five council members, according to the contract.

Brandon Pho is a Voice of OC intern. Contact him at bpho@voiceofoc.orgor on Twitter @photherecord.

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