Ten months ago the Manteca City Council was singing the praises of Miranda Lutzow as city manager.
Their collective opinion of the work she was doing was strong enough that they gave Lutzow an overall rating of “highly competent” during a December 2020 performance evaluation report.
On Tuesday the council will consider responding to a Grand Jury report that slammed municipal operations and turmoil while Lutzow was at the helm by agreeing with the finding “the city manager and assistant manager positions were filled without the benefit of an established recruitment process. This caused community-wide turmoil while they struggled to learn the job.”
How the council can square up comments that are virtually polar opposites of each other, should they keep the response intact when they forward their official response to the San Joaquin County Grand Jury, may be tricky.
In the confidential city manager performance evaluation prepared by personnel consultant Mary Egan of Egan Solutions following closed sessions the document concludes “Miranda Lutzow is viewed as a highly competent City Manager by the majority of the Council. When faced with a very challenging first year as City Manager, Ms. Lutzow dug in and worked hard to initiate the change that was needed amid resistance. Her composure and transparency have served her well in the face of opposition and unforeseeable world events. Her leadership has allowed the City of Manteca to launch new initiatives as 2000 ends and the challenges of 2021 begin.
“The Council majority appreciates Ms. Lutzow and believes she is doing an excellent job for the organization.”
Immediately following the conclusion are the signatures of Lutzow and Manteca Mayor Ben Cantu.
Three months after the evaluation Lutzow abruptly resigned. She has since filled a hostile workplace lawsuit against the City of Manteca.
The “excellent” job performance the council majority gave to Lutzow was conferred by Cantu as well as council members Jose Nuño and Gary Singh.
Charlie Halford was just sworn in after winning a council seat a month earlier in November and as such was not in a position to elevate Lutzow’s job performance.
As for councilman Dave Breitenbucher, he not only voted against her being hired as either an interim or a permanent city manager but he also repeatedly voiced at public meetings his belief that she lacked the experience to be city manager.
At several meetings he expressed frustration that Lutzow wasn’t making information available to him such as the cost of city hall renovations that included new offices for herself an assistant city manager Lisa Blackmon who has since taken a similar position in El Paso, Texas.
Her interactions with Breitenbucher was enough to cite several instances in a claim she filed against the city after resigning where she alleged the councilman’s conduct toward her personally and what she believed to be interference in decisions she was making with the fire department and on other issues allegedly constituted a hostile workplace environment.
Lutzow has since dropped specific references to Breitenbucher in her lawsuit.
The 10-page staff prepared response will be presented to the City Council for adoption during a special meeting set for Tuesday, Sept. 14, at 10 a.m., at the Civic Center, 1001 W. Center St.
The council acting on a majority vote can adopt the response as presented, reject it, or modify it.
The Grand Jury report pointed to the “dysfunctional” administration of the City of Manteca over the course of the last three years that came as the result of a lack of leadership from the City Council and inexperience in the city manager’s office.
The grand jury found that the dysfunctional atmosphere at City Hall was attributed to a combination of factors, including ineffective leadership at the council level, a general lack of knowledge by certain department heads, and redundancies in leadership that led to a tremendous amount of waste. All of that led to an atmosphere of uncertainty among city employees watching from the sidelines as nearly every single department head in the city turned over during that period.
How to comment
There are five ways for the public to make comments and have them included as part of the record.
*The first is in person.
*They can use eComment where you call up the agenda on the city’s website. New users will need to follow instructions to make an account. The comments are made by going down the agenda on the website and clicking on the eComment icon. Only one comment is allowed per agenda items of up to 500 characters. Any eComment can be at any time up to the item being heard by the council.
*Emailing a comment to firstname.lastname@example.org up until two hours before the meeting. Comments 250 words and under will be read into the record while those over 250 words will be made a part of the official record but not publically read. Copies of the email comments over 250 words will be provided to council members.
*Via Zoom webinar. To call or log into Zoom Webinar, please do the following: Meeting ID: 826 7726 8640. Phone number: (669) 900 6833. To speak during an item you must use the Raise Your Hand feature. If dialing in, press *9 to Raise Your Hand. Remain muted until called upon. If you have questions on the Zoom Webinar process, email: email@example.com or call (209) 456-8010.
*Mail comments to the City Clerk’s office at 1001 W. Center St, Ste. B, Manteca, CA, 95337 that is received up to two hours before the meeting start. The same email word rules apply.
*Hand delivered comments to the city clerk’s door drop slot no later than two hours prior to the meeting. The same email world rules apply.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email firstname.lastname@example.org