Irvine City Council Could Fire City Manager on Tuesday

JULIE LEOPO, Voice of OC

Irvine City Manager John Russo at the Dec. 19, 2019 City Council meeting.

Irvine’s city manager could be fired Tuesday night’s City Council meeting, with no reason stated publicly yet, according to one City Council member.

Councilwoman Melissa Fox, speaking in an interview Monday with Voice of OC, said City Manager John Russo is the employee mentioned in a City Council closed session item Tuesday requesting “a public employee discipline, dismissal, or release.”

The item was put forward by Councilman Anthony Kuo and Councilwoman Farrah Khan, and does not indicate who the employee is or why the action is being proposed. Khan declined to comment when reached by phone Monday, and Kuo and Russo didn’t immediately return phone messages. City Attorney Jeff Melching also did not return requests for comment.

Fox said she didn’t know the reasoning for potentially ousting Russo.

“I’m aware of nothing John Russo has done to warrant any discipline or firing,” Fox said.

The Council meeting is scheduled to start at 4 p.m. Tuesday. Placing the item in closed session means the public will not be able to hear the council’s discussion, but members of the public can speak publicly to the council before their closed-door session.

According to Russo’s employment contract, the City Council can fire him with or without cause at any time, except in the 90 days following an election, when he can still be dismissed for “office misconduct.”

Russo’s makes $303,000 per year under his two-year employment contract with Irvine, which expires in June. If he’s fired without cause, he receives severance equal to 60 days of pay, according to a July 2018 city staff report when the contract was up for approval.

The report says if Russo is fired with cause, he will not receive severance or the remainder of the contract.

Russo came to Irvine from his previous position as the city manager of Riverside, where he left on bad terms in what he called an “unusually toxic” environment.

The Riverside Press Enterprise reported at the time that Russo was fired after trying to extend his contract from five to seven years.

Noah Biesiada is a Voice of OC news intern. Contact him @nbiesiada@voiceofoc.org or on Twitter @NBiesiada.