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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: Web Link

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.


Magda's gotta go

If the information provided is accurate, and I have no reason to believe it isn't (quite the contrary), that is a very compelling case you make above, dce.

One might go further, frankly, and take a look at her boss. She was hired by the 2014 Council (pre-election). She serves at the pleasure of the Council. This is a very poor reflection on this Council and the 3 incumbents in particular that hired her.

"Gonzalez has come under fire for an alleged lack of transparency, particularly when she considered possibly contracting police services with the San Mateo County Sheriff and for an audit of the city's Rent Stabilization Program.

The latter incident caused a firestorm of protest after it was revealed that the auditors interviewed three representatives of two large landlords but not any tenants about the rent program. Rent board member Shyree Randolph, a tenant, was interviewed by the consultant, but only in her capacity on the board and not as a tenant, she has said.

The audit targeted Rent Stabilization Program Administrator Carol Lamont, accusing her of being biased in favor of tenants. Lamont strongly refuted the allegations and resigned in March in protest. Her last day was May 10.

Statewide tenants' rights group Tenants Together obtained 3,000 pages of city documents through the California Public Records Act, some of which purported to show that the audit was biased in favor of the landlords, which included the city's largest, Equity Residential (EQR).

Some documents appeared to show a close relationship between Gonzalez and EQR, including an email that tipped the developer to three tenants' rights ordinances. The email was not sent to any tenant groups."

Web Link

I've been Googling instances of groups of citizens suing a City Council. I was surprised that it is almost always the other way 'round, whereby a City Council, like a bunch of thugs, sues a citizen or citizen org.

Interesting posit Coasters...

I think it would be very hard to assemble a cause of action that would survive a challenge. As I am sure you are already aware in order to sue someone you first need to have standing, which I guess a class-action on behalf of the community could have, but then you also need tangible damages or harm.

Granted that this event (and numerous others) have caused harm, but it will be an almost impossible burden to connect whatever harm was done to individuals in the class. (And further to quantify the harm and then somehow provide a remedy.) There is also a common protection in the Constitution which prevents individuals from suing the government except in extreme cases- which this, however disgusting, is clearly not.

All in all suing the government is an effective impossibility. First- you need to get the government's permission to sue it, then you need to prove an exigent and highly deliberate and prejudicial set of acts, with a quantifiable range and character of harm, and finally you have to provide a remedy which will serve to correct the harm that was done.




Even before this thread I read the review article about this online and thought she should be fired. She lied to a City Council member and even the Review reported she said the grant was rejected when the truth is it was never filed.

It will not happen because Magda Gonzalez has stated in public that she works for three City Council members only. Those three for whatever reasons support her and I am sure someone like Superficial Charm will be replying with some smug nonsense about why Magda Gonzalez should be getting a promotion and raise. Then Clay/HMB Review will lock this thread and the status quo continues. It is really sad but at the end of the day the HMB voters are the ones who have to make a change.

Did anything come of the signature gathering for the ballot initiative to help prevent the City Council from going the Lease Bond route without a super majority? My guess was the signatures could not be gathered because it is viewed as anti-library. I live in Pescadero now but I certainly support a new or renovated library for HMB. I have supported the FOL and donated to them. I want a new library I just agree as has been stated that what is currently planned is too big and too expensive.

Thanks, Terri

>>>Did anything come of the signature gathering for the ballot initiative to help prevent the City Council from going the Lease Bond route without a super majority? My guess was the signatures could not be gathered because it is viewed as anti-library.<<<

Nope- I'm glad to say you are wrong on this one!!

We have more than 900 signatures- or 250 more than we need, which will be turned in early next week. We've had them in hand for several weeks but have been strategizing on two other possible initiatives and wanted time to discuss those in the community before turning in the petitions for the TPA.

Thanks for the reasonable approach as always!!


The initiative gatherers have more than the required number of signatures plus a good cushion.

The City Council is now playing "Beat the Clock" to cut the people off at the pass-- playing tricks to speed up the process to a point of no return and circumvent a vote they're not sure would be favorable.

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