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Lathrop loses Public info officer to budget cuts
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LATHROP – The city of Lathrop will be out of a public information officer by the end of next week due to anticipated budget constraints.

The City Council made that unanimous decision at their regular meeting Tuesday night. Their vote was wholeheartedly endorsed and supported by several residents who addressed the council last night. The speakers were all in agreement that they did not have anything against PIO Mike Esau, who has retired from the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office where he held the same position, but that the “economy is so bad” that eliminating his contracted position “would be a good decision right now.”

The council members were of the same opinion.

“I really have a problem with this right now. I really like Mr. Esau. He’s fantastic. But this is about policies and principles. This is something that I can’t vote for tonight,” said Vice Mayor Martha Salcedo of the recommendation to extend Esau’s contract to July with an additional budget amendment of $10,000.

Council member Robert Oliver said he sees “no need” at this time for the city to have a public information officer and that City Clerk Rick Caldeira who, he said, is “very eloquent and writes well” could take over that responsibility.

Added Councilman Sonny Dhaliwal, times have changed since Esau was hired for the job. He agreed as well that the city clerk could take on the PIO’s task.

“When the time comes, we can reconsider this,” he said of the council’s decision to forgo continuing the contract with Esau.

Interim City Manager Cary Keaten said Esau’s current contract will end in the middle of this month.

The proposal before the council was to approve the $10,500 second amendment to the consulting services contract with Esau.

Formerly employed with the Sheriff’s Office before his retirement, Esau was first tapped by the city for the PIO job during the salary negotiations with union city employees in the spring of 2007. His services were “utilized… to provide the public and press with clear, accurate and timely information.” That original contract was $15,000. The first amendment to that contract for $9,999 took place in September 2007. In April 2008, the city and Esau signed another contract in the amount of $20,000. It was amended in December for $4,999. The $10,500 proposal which the council nixed at their last meeting on Tuesday would have been the second amendment to the 2008 contract.