News


Rancho Palo Verdes rescinds Widmer's city manager job offer

 

In the end, Bill Widmer didn't have to decide if he was going to resign from his seat on the Atherton City Council to take a job he had been offered in the Southern California city of Rancho Palos Verdes.

The offer to become the new city manager there was rescinded on Monday night, Dec. 22, less than a week after the council there had unanimously approved a contract with Mr. Widmer. In a press release the city said it was "unable to come to an agreement" with Mr. Widmer over the contract and had therefore rescinded the job offer.


Bill Widmer
When reached by phone Tuesday, Mr. Widmer said he had no comment about what had happened Monday night.

The Rancho Palos Verdes council, in a closed session with its city attorney voted 4-1 to rescind the job offer and continue with its search for a new city manager.

Mr. Widmer surprised many on Dec. 17 when it was reported he had been named the new city manager in Rancho Palos Verdes. Then he surprised them again when he said he didn't plan to immediately move from Atherton or resign his council seat. The new job was to start Jan. 1.

That decision raised a bit of a flap in both cities. In Rancho Palos Verdes the City Council was flooded with emails saying that if Mr. Widmer couldn't commit to their city he shouldn't be hired.

In Atherton, the new mayor, Councilman Rick DeGolia, asked Mr. Widmer to resign. "If Bill knows that he will have to resign at some point over the next year, then it is in Atherton's best interests for him to do that now," he said. "I have communicated that to him."

Other than his four-year term on the Atherton City Council, Mr. Widmer has no experience working in the public sector. He has worked in management for private sector high-tech companies locally and internationally, and currently has a management consulting practice. He has a bachelor's degree in computer sciences and an MBA from Texas Christian University, and completed an executive program at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

Mr. Widmer's council colleagues found out about the new job only because Atherton City Manager George Rodericks was contacted on Dec. 17 by reporter Megan Barnes of the Daily Breeze, based in Torrance, California, for a comment on the $215,000-a-year contract with Mr. Widmer that had just been approved by the Rancho Palos Verdes City Council.

Mr. Widmer did not mention his new job at the Atherton council meeting that night, but told other council members after the meeting, after Mr. Rodericks told him he knew about it.

The contract posted online by Rancho Palos Verdes said Mr. Widmer "will relocate from his current residence to another residence that is within or near the city" but also offered him a "temporary travel and housing allowance" of $3,000 per month starting Jan. 1 for a maximum of nine months.

The contact also stated that Mr. Widmer was not allowed to "spend more than an average of four hours per week in ... non-employer related business without the prior approval of the council." Mr. Widmer said he now spends 20 to 30 hours a week on Atherton council business.

When the mayor and others started asking for his resignation, Mr. Widmer said he was not ready to do so. "I'm not going to be bullied out of office. I'll make my own decision in my own good time," he said.

When asked if those who supported his election had pressured him not to resign, Mr. Widmer said in an email: "My supporters have sent congratulations and want me to do what's best for me and my family. They have expressed appreciation for all I have done for the Town. I have also received comments on how disappointed they are in those who are using the situation to make unpleasant and uncalled for comments."

Back in Rancho Palos Verdes, reporter Barnes wrote in the Daily Breeze that Councilwoman Susan Brooks had said: "He should have resigned his position immediately upon accepting this ... to do anything other than that would be like trying to be in two marriages at the same time. ... You can't have your allegiance to two cities."

Mr. Widmer said that part of the reason he did not plan to immediately relocate was that his Atherton home is currently under construction and he has a son in college who still lives at home. Also, he said, the Rancho Palos Verdes council had agreed he could remain a resident of Atherton.

"I'll have an apartment down there and I'll come back when I can," he said. "I've got nine months to decide what I need to do."

According to a staff report to the Rancho Palos Verdes City Council, Mr. Widmer was chosen from among 49 applicants for the job.

"Some (Atherton council) meetings I'll have to attend by phone," Mr. Widmer said. "If it becomes a problem, the mayor and I will decide what to do. Probably sometime in the future I'll step down, but that's a time that's not been determined."

Mr. DeGolia said, however, that if Mr. Widmer's contract required him to move from Atherton that he should have resigned immediately.

"I strongly believe that if he is going to have to move, or if he will have to cut back on his time as a council member, or if he will have to be on the phone for our meetings, then whether or not he is legally required to do so, he should resign now," Mr. DeGolia said. "This would be in the best interests of Atherton, so that his replacement can get up to speed right away, because we have very important issues in front of us that are complex and we want someone involved in these issues who will be here for the long haul."

Mr. Widmer said he didn't see it that way. "I need to assess what the job requirements are. I need to assess the workload," he said. "I'll make the best decision for me, for the town of Atherton, for the town of Palos Verdes. That's what I'm going to do."

Mr. Widmer said a recruiter contacted him about the Rancho Palos Verdes job. "I've looked at a couple of other city manager's jobs before," he said. The Rancho Palos Verdes City Council is "a unique organization of business executives. ... They value private industry experience and good communication skills."

Mr. Widmer said he had applied for the job before filing for re-election "and then nothing happened." Only near the end of October was he interviewed, he said. He was called for a second interview on Nov. 5. "Nothing was finalized. You don't know what you've got until you're there," he said.

In the Nov. 4 Atherton election, he came in third in a four-person race for three open council seats, 29 votes ahead of losing candidate Rose Hau.

Comments

20 people like this
Posted by Credibility
a resident of Atherton: other
on Dec 23, 2014 at 6:17 am

Widmer has now lost his credibility. By acting in a secretative and underhanded maner by accepting election to Atherton Council while at the same accepting a job 400 plus miles away he chose both jobs. Obviously Atherton would have been deprived of his time and more importantly someone else who wanted to serve precluded a position on the Council. This is all about Bill Widmer and his own self aggrandizement. He now cannot be trusted to serve Atherton and his campaign slogan of "Atherton wins" is devoid of meaning. I regret having voted for him. He should resign immediately.5ugVA


4 people like this
Posted by Edward Syrett
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Dec 23, 2014 at 1:07 pm

Edward Syrett is a registered user.

I'm not an Atherton resident, and might feel differently if I were. But Mr. Widmer's position sounds reasonable to me. It's not like trying to be in two marriages at once. It's more like running two major companies at once. Steve Jobs did that (Apple and Pixar) very successfully.

Of course, if Mr. Widmer thought he was the next Steve Jobs, he might have been deluding himself. We'll never know, since he's back to one job now.


3 people like this
Posted by pogo
a resident of Woodside: other
on Dec 23, 2014 at 1:57 pm

pogo is a registered user.

With all respect to Mr. Syrett, it's really not like doing two jobs at once. It was just one job albeit located 400 miles from home.

After seeing the Council rescind the agreement, one thing is very apparent - neither party understood the time commitment and travel requirements very well. Shame on both of them for getting this far without clarifying such a basic element of a contract.

In the private sector, we do this a lot - hire remote employees and relocate. The number of hours in a location, required at the office, and housing proximities are almost always spelled out in the agreement.

This episode is not a positive reflection on the managerial expertise of either party.


13 people like this
Posted by Interesting...
a resident of another community
on Dec 23, 2014 at 4:23 pm

Interesting... is a registered user.

Thank God the Rancho Palos Verdes City Council did the right thing and rescinded the job offer to this guy. This was a complete mismatch from the beginning. Widmer has absolutely no experience managing a City. He touted his experience as a City Council member in Atherton, but there is no comparison between being an elected, part-time City Council member and running the day-to-day operations of a City. No comparison whatsoever!

He also touted his experience as an executive and manager in the private sector. Again - absolutely no comparison whatsoever! Private sector managers are concerned most with making a profit. Public sector managers are concerned most of all with delivery of services because there is no profit motive in the public sector.

Bill Wimder would not have been a good fit as City Manager of the City of Rancho Palos Verdes. Thankfully, the RPV City Council recognized this, albeit later that they should have.


1 person likes this
Posted by Thoughtful
a resident of another community
on Dec 24, 2014 at 7:29 am

Thoughtful is a registered user.

[part removed. Post your point without negative comments about other posters.]

What this represents to me is one of the worst and most vicious political hit jobs I've ever seen. I'm not sure I can even call it that, because in bare knuckle politics, a political hit would be defined as taking out an opponent politically, removing him from political office, or taking away political power. Taking away his job and means to make a living when that is not related to the politics is what happened here.

To Interesting, and his cronies in Atherton who did this to Widmer [part removed) shame on you, and I have to say that at least I for one believe in karma.


8 people like this
Posted by Concerned
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Dec 24, 2014 at 12:27 pm

Concerned is a registered user.

I must start by stating that I am an Atherton resident and that I did not vote for Mr. Widmer for either election (in fact I voted against him).

I find it very interesting that he seems to be going against his campaign statement on Web Link when he states: "I have led the Town in using new technology to inform you and provide transparency." I would not call keeping his out-of-area job hunt secret, transparent in any way. In fact, keeping this secret is the opposite of transparent. I am further shocked that the town found out from a reporter -- again not transparent.

Why even run for re-election? Why potentially waste the Atherton tax payers money by creating a special election because you resign mid-term? Why run for the position at all if you are job hunting?

You have let the voters of Atherton down Mr. Widmer.


7 people like this
Posted by Interesting...
a resident of another community
on Dec 25, 2014 at 7:29 pm

Interesting... is a registered user.

Lol, Thoughtful. No one did anything to Widmer. This guy cooked his own goose. By not resigning from the Atherton City Council he showed contempt for the new city that hired him, Rancho Palos Verdes. By not resigning, he also showed a lack of respect toward his city of origin, Atherton.

He could not possible serve two masters in these two highly responsible positions. His failure to recognize this and deal with it appropriately was his undoing. End of story.

As for taking away his job, that's also a bogus argument. From what I understand, Widmer was retired (or pretty darn close to it). So, this simply means he will get to continue playing golf in NoCal. Not a bad deal if you ask me.


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

Let's Talk Internships
By John Raftrey and Lori McCormick | 2 comments | 1,051 views

Couples: Sex and Connection (Chicken or Egg?)
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 908 views

Zucchini Takeover
By Laura Stec | 1 comment | 806 views