|The Case Against City Manager Magda Gonzalez|
It has been one year almost to the day since City Manager Magda Gonzalez was hired just one week after being terminated as East Palo Alto’s City Manager. At the time numerous people were highly upset at both the generous severance package Ms. Gonzalez was given, as well as the seemingly curious circumstance of her hiring just a week after being terminated by East Palo Alto.
In the year that has followed there have been a number of successes, and probably more failures, but none of what has come before rises to the level of cause for termination, at least not until the TIGER debacle that the Review so completely reported on in this week’s paper. For a detailed narrative of what happened please read here first:
Fact: The City filed a pre-application (as required by the grant program) prior to the May 5th deadline.
Fact: The Department of Transportation has confirmed that after that pre-application no application was received from the City before or after the deadline.
Fact: Ms. Gonzalez maintains that the application was made but rejected because of the wrong placement of what is called a DUNS number- into the spot where a SAM number would go- on the application itself.
Fact: The assertion made just above is not possible. The DUNS number is the length and format of a Social Security Number, and the SAM CAGE number is a six-digit single string of numbers and letters. There is NO WAY to enter a DUNS number into a SAM number slot on a web form- there simply aren’t enough spots for the individual digits. To quote the DOT representative: “Whoever told you this knows enough about the process to know that there are two different numbers, but they obviously don’t know enough to realize that their story is impossible- because you can’t mistakenly put a DUNS number in the form in place of a SAM CAGE ID.”
Fact: The City Manager knew on June 6th that she had failed to file the application for a $4.5 million TIGER grant to rehab the entire seven-mile stretch of Coastal Trail, as well as three bridges that are desperately in need of repair.
Fact: After the deadline passed and she was aware of the failure the City Manager deliberately kept this information from the City Council for a period of more than two months.
All of which (in a normal world) would lead here:
Termination for Cause: Gross incompetence/negligence: Failure to prepare to file a simple application in the 30-day period between the preliminary application and the final application, or failure to provide adequate oversight and direction to Staff to accomplish this task.
Termination for Cause: Willful misrepresentation of factual circumstances: As noted above, the narrative Ms. Gonzalez has provided is simply impossible, and the factual basis for her narrative is unsupportable. Whether she misstated the truth out of ignorance or deliberation really does not matter here- she has given every appearance of having lied to Councilwoman Ruddock and Councilwoman Penrose.
Termination for Cause: Gross Dereliction of Duty/Failure of Care: As also noted above, Ms. Gonzalez failed in the most basic and essential duty she has: To keep the Council informed about every material thing that is happening within the City. Instead she failed to tell the representative councilmember who had championed the project that she had materially failed to carry out her assigned task for a period of time that lasted more than two full months.
Any one of the previous charges would be (and should be) sufficient to terminate the City Manager’s employment- with cause. The three taken together make a damning case for immediate termination, and the Council majority would do well to recognize the nature of these failures, and to take appropriate action immediately.
Anything less would be an equally profound dereliction of duty.