UPDATE: The City of Morro Bay will pay outgoing city attorney Robert Schultz $163,235 (excluding taxes) in severance. Schultz’ compensation package includes nine months of pay, six months of his health insurance, and over $45,000 worth of holiday/sick/vacation time. The deal was signed by Schultz on Monday, Nov. 11 and Mayor Jamie Irons on Wednesday, Nov. 13. Schultz, as part of the deal, has agreed not to file suit in court over his departure.
* * *
After four hours of closed-door discussions and a 3-2 vote, the Morro Bay City Council voted to place City Attorney Rob Schultz on administrative leave at a closed meeting on Thursday, October 31.
No reason has been given for Schultz’ departure and residents have expressed concern over the decision. Schultz is employed at-will and City is not legally obligated to provide a reason for the termination.
Councilmembers Noah Smukler and Christine Johnson joined Mayor Jamie Irons in the vote to oust Schultz. Councilmembers Nancy Johnson and George Leage voted against the measure.
According to several news outlets, the council is also considering firing City Manager Andrea Lueker but has yet to take any action.
Both Schultz and Lueker have worked for almost 10 years in the Central Coast waterfront community of just over 10,000. The small community is described by KCOY 12 as “tight knit.”
Indeed, critics have been vocal over the process of Schultz’ removal.
Deliberations regarding Schultz’ employment have been ongoing since a September 12 council meeting where city leaders discussed the possibility of disciplining both Schultz and Lueker and/or terminating their contracts. According to the San Luis Obispo Tribune, almost 300 people attended that meeting to oppose the firings.
Mayor Jamie Irons—elected in December 2012—has come under under fire calling the meeting on short notice, alerting the public just 24-hours in advance rather than the 72-hours which is standard for public meetings.
“I did not need 72 hours to think about this,” responded Irons. “I have had plenty of time to think about this.”
The controversy has resulted in the launch of a recall effort against Irons.
“The straw that broke the camel’s back was the attempt by the mayor to terminate the city manager and city attorney,” said William Peirce, the leader of the recall movement, to the Tribune.
The recall petition—which can be viewed below—alleges that Irons has had “a detrimental effect on the City of Morro Bay.” Included among the issues listed on the document include an allegation that Irons “acted precipitously to dismiss the City Manager and City Attorney, admittedly without cause or a succession plan, and without regard to the negative effect on the city’s operation, finances and morale.”
According to the document, “Jamie Irons consistently puts his own agenda and interests ahead of his constituents and fellow council members. His disregard for the welfare of Morro Bay and its citizens must not continue. He should be recalled.”
As of September 24, the petition had garnered 30 signatures. Organizers will need to collect around 1,700 signatures to prompt a recall election.
City leaders have hired special counsel in order to negotiate a termination settlement with Schultz. Schultz earns over $150,000 a year and will likely receive nine months of severance pay, per his contract.
The City announced on Friday that Anne Russell will serve as the Interim City Attorney. Russell formerly worked at the San Luis Obsipo law firm, Diehl & Rodenwald.
View the “Notice of Intention to Circulate Recall Petition against Mayor Irons” here or below: