City to conduct nationwide search for manager

Rojas asked to serve up to six months post-retirement

Picking their way around legal questions surrounding when a pension reform measure must take effect, the Menlo Park City Council voted 3-2 on Tuesday night to conduct a nationwide search for the next city manager.

"I would feel most comfortable with a comprehensive nationwide search to really assure ourselves that we are reaching out to the very best, because Menlo Park deserves the best," Councilwoman Kelly Fergusson said.

Council members Kirsten Keith and Andy Cohen voted against a nationwide search, arguing for keeping the search in-house to save money and reward current city employees. Mr. Cohen announced his support of Starla Jerome-Robinson, now assistant city manager, as a candidate for promotion.

Mayor Rich Cline said that he thought putting all candidates through the extensive interview process would give current Menlo Park employees a chance to shine and demonstrate why their experience and insider knowledge made them the best choice.

Mr. Cohen commented: "I don't want to wait until we've spent $50,000 wining and dining a bunch of people from Michigan and New York to decide that this city should not provide a residence to someone when the best candidate is someone who already lives here."

Councilman Peter Ohtaki and Mr. Cohen will serve on the hiring subcommittee.

Voters passed Measure L, a pension reform initiative, in November, but the changes won't take effect for at least another six months, until the contract with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) expires in October. If the city hires a new manager from outside Menlo Park before the measure takes effect, that hire would fall under the current pension policy with higher benefits.

"There's legal uncertainty as to whether (Measure) L takes effect when the AFSCME contract expires, or after concluding negotiations," Mr. McClure told the council.

Glen Rojas

The current manager, Glen Rojas, plans to retire in July. The council also voted 4-0-1, with Mr. Cohen abstaining, to have him serve up to six months post-retirement until his replacement is selected.

As for the $1.2 million loan he received from the city to buy a home in Menlo Park upon being hired in 2007, Mr. Rojas said he has two years to pay off the balance -- approximately $41,500 -- and may either refinance or sell the house.

While serving as a contractor, Mr. Rojas would earn the same $18,369 monthly salary he makes now, but saves the city an estimated $4,700 per month in benefit costs, according to the staff report. He would also earn no vacation or sick leave hours.

Personnel director Glen Kramer confirmed that Mr. Rojas would receive both his pension and a monthly salary -- as does Mr. Kramer, who retired Dec. 29 before returning as a contractor on Jan. 3 and who makes $68.40 per hour on top of his $10,877 monthly pension. Retired employees are limited to working 960 hours per year by CalPERS regulations.

We can't do it without you.
Support local journalism.


Like this comment
Posted by What?
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Apr 27, 2011 at 4:17 pm

Starla Jerome Robinson?

Andy, you've got to be kidding.

Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 27, 2011 at 4:19 pm

The Council made a huge mistake in not hiring an outside interim manager who would be a true change agent.

Like this comment
Posted by Roy Thiele-Sardina
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 27, 2011 at 5:52 pm


I completely agree with you, an interim manager could have been a vehicle for change.

The problem is we have at least three council people who have NEVER run a business in their lives. And quite frankly show a lack of business sense/knowledge that they should be embarrassed. So while this decision is regrettable, it is expected with the skillset (or lack thereof) that Kelly and Andy bring to the table......

Bad for Menlo Park.


Like this comment
Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Apr 27, 2011 at 7:16 pm

The two with business experience disagree. The issues upcoming outrank the need for the "assumed" change agent.

Like this comment
Posted by peter carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 27, 2011 at 7:24 pm

peter carpenter is a registered user.

Time will tell if the lack of an outside Interim City Manager for Menlo Park makes any difference - and we have a case control with Atherton's outside Interim Manager.

Let's see which community sees more positive change during the next 6 months.

Like this comment
Posted by It's Business Time
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Apr 27, 2011 at 7:24 pm

Trying to follow Roy T-S's argument... How can Andy and Kelly's lack of business experience be the problem, given that they were on different sides of a 3-2 vote that was apparently only about whether to search nationally or not? Wouldn't the business-savvy Council members be on the losing end of a struggle to convince the others to go outside for the interim job?

Maybe more to the point, what's with the claim that "at least" 3 haven't run a business? By my count, Peter (former CFO of a high-tech company), Rich (founder and president of branding/BR firm), and Kirsten (runs a private law practice) all have strong claims to paying attention to the bottom line and being accountable. If you think Kirsten in particular doesn't have the 'big' business experience, maybe you can check with an architect friend of yours to see if solo practices provide a good basis for a Council job. You know, hypothetically.

Like this comment
Posted by member
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 28, 2011 at 8:14 am

Why can't Mr. Rojas postpone his retirement for 6 months and save the city the monthly salary he'd get on top of his retirement pay? He could work off his home loan balance and be a beacon of fiscal responsibility!

Like this comment
Posted by start now
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Apr 28, 2011 at 8:57 am

Why not start a search right away with the goal of getting a strong and fiscally savvy new manager. Why not avoid a potentially lame-duck interim manager, whether it be Rojas (who hasn't impressed me at all)or a newbie? The current and long-term budget issues of city are large. Get started on fixing it.
Looking internally only, just to save money, makes no cents (purposely spelled). Reviewing internal candidates must be done in the context of evaluating external candidates, too, using clear selection criteria.

Like this comment
Posted by Joanna
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 28, 2011 at 9:58 am

I hope this council, despite Fergusson and Cline, decides to pay a reasonable salary. Lavishing a large salary, bonuses, allowances and loans does NOT work. Want proof? Look at Rojas.

It does NOT matter what other cities pay their city managers. We do not have to continue this maddening cycle. It is time to be responsible with tax payer funds. $250k (plus bonuses and loans) for a city manager is ridiculous no matter how well he/she does (in this case how poorly he does).

Like this comment
Posted by double dipping
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 4, 2011 at 4:07 am

Why is nobody not just saying what this is all about.

Double dipping. Classic case. Rojas resigns early, gets retirement checks and the City hires him as a consultant in the same job and pays him as a consultant. Great deal for Rojas. Lousy deal for the city.

Who recommended this? Glen Kramer. Kramer is retired, getting a large pension and has been hired by Rojas to be a consultant in his old position. Another double dipper.

Its the "old boys club" in Menlo Park, and our dense Council permits and encourages this.

The City under Rojas has not had a structurally balanced budget during his tenure. He keeps covering up the deficits. Take a look at what has happened to the General fund reserves during his tenure. Look at the huge increase in City workers salaries during this period, as well has the bloating of his administrative staff. (we need both a deputy and an assistant City Manager? --- we need 2 city clerks? )

Keep your eyes out for bonuses to be awarded to Rojas' favorite few. Boesch certainly took care of his buddies when he left for the County manager's job. (Dave Johnson in particular)

Unwilling to take any hard stops to reduce personal costs, it has always been bring on more revenue. Changes in Master fee schedule. Red light cameras. No push back on Garbage contract.

This administration will be looked at as the very worst. He shouldn't be left off the hook with "well council has the final say." This was Rojas' agenda.

Keeping him on as a consultant just reinforces what a weak council we have.

The public is being taken for a ride. Down in the RDA, they can't get a police station built in 10 years, yet those involved remain in power.

Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 4, 2011 at 4:49 am

"The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. "

And it is even worse when you are paying twice for the same thing.....

Like this comment
Posted by R.Gordon
a resident of another community
on May 5, 2011 at 11:59 am

Peter........while your sagacity is just adored in these areas, I think you best focus on Atherton, your home base, which appears to be headed to a gasping death by taxes.
Do not squander your talents. They could use you at home.

Like this comment
Posted by peter carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 5, 2011 at 12:02 pm

peter carpenter is a registered user.

Menlo Park would be wise to follow the Atherton model of an outside Interim City Manager who can bring a fresh and tough perspective to its structural deficits.

The Atherton Town Council showed courage and wisdom in selecting John Danielson as the Interim Town Manager. And Danielson is showing courage and wisdom in being prepared to make the drastic cuts that are necessary (and which I called for in my Dec 2008 message to local elected officials).

As usual R. Gordon is simply out of touch with reality and ignorant of the facts.

Like this comment
Posted by Eavesdropper
a resident of another community
on May 6, 2011 at 10:26 am

The two double dippers negotiated the higher pensions in the first place. Now they reap rewards so we can stall until replacements can be hired at lower pension.

I am with Peter...outside interference for interim could help "clean house" without on-going agenda.

Like this comment
Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on May 6, 2011 at 2:11 pm

Guys like Henry Riggs and Ed Mortiz making claims to have the experience to say an outside temp would be cheaper and more of a change agent than hiring a new permanent CM from the outset. Ed was a pawn PR guy for products like "wood" or "aluminum" experience? Riggs is an independent architect. Um, like an artist with right angles.

Gimme a break. Rojas oversaw in four years Facebook into MP, Gateway passes, the draft specific plan, managing a balanced budget without taxes in one of the harshest economic eras of our lifetime and, now, maybe two tier police contracts. Add to that HSR and all the leadership MP has taken, and it should be easy.

Talk smack all you want folks, your resume is significantly lighter when it comes to what you have done for MP.

Respect is taught in Kindergarten. I guess you missed that lesson.

Like this comment
Posted by Long time Menlo man
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 7, 2011 at 7:51 am

If you think we're going to get the same quality person paying less $$ and fewer retirement benefits you're sadly, sadly misinformed.
Let's assume you are a city manager looking for a job and you're offered a job at Menlo and City A down the street which pays more AND provides a better retirement. Which would you pick? It's rhetorical. No answer required.

Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 7, 2011 at 8:19 am

Long time menlo man:

your question presumes there is a "city a" down the street with better pay and benefits. I wouldn't make that assumption. Neither should you.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Don't be the last to know

Get the latest headlines sent straight to your inbox every day.

Peek inside the fine-dining Selby's, opening in Redwood City this summer
By Elena Kadvany | 6 comments | 4,629 views

If you do nothing else, do These Three Things
By Sherry Listgarten | 18 comments | 1,731 views

Premarital and Couples: "You're Not Listening to Me!" may mean "I don't feel heard."
By Chandrama Anderson | 1 comment | 1,231 views

Lentil Brownies
By Laura Stec | 3 comments | 287 views

Finding Balance
By Cheryl Bac | 0 comments | 188 views


The Almanac Readers' Choice ballot is here

It's time to decide what local business is worthy of the title "The Almanac Readers' Choice" — and you get to decide! Cast your ballot online. Voting ends May 27th. Stay tuned for the results in the July 17th issue of The Almanac.