It’s a two-for-one session that could end up costing Manteca taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The Manteca City Council tonight will discuss behind closed doors two lawsuits filed by two former senior management team members that essentially assert they dealt with a hostile work environment while employed by the city. They are terminated former fire chief Kyle Shipherd and former city manager Miranda Lutzow who abruptly resigned in February. Shipherd was terminated by Lutzow 28 days before her resignation.
Shipherd was the last standing member of the senior management team that was in place when Lutzow stepped into her role as an acting city manager in mid-September 2019
Being updated on the two pending lawsuits filed in the San Joaquin County Superior Court in the same executive session that starts tonight at 5:45 p.m. has an ironic twist. The person Shipherd contends created a hostile work environment is Lutzow.
Lutzow meanwhile contends she also was a victim of a hostile work environment created primarily by council member Dave Breitenbucher.
To date, the city has paid in excess of $1 million to senior management team members terminated while Lutzow was running the city.
Breitenbucher was part of a unanimous council that put Lutzow in the role of acting city manager in mid-September 2019 when they placed then city manager Tim Ogden on paid administrative leave after receiving a letter from a city employer complaining about his management style.
However several months later when a push was made to make Lutzow interim city manager while the council deliberated about a permanent replacement Breitenbucher objected citing Lutzow’s lack of experience as a city manager.
The difference between “acting” and “interim” is more than just semantics. An acting city manager is appointed in the absence of the city manager for short periods of time. As the investigation into the letter the council received about Ogden dragged on, the council majority opted to make Lutzow an interim city manager while they decided what to do with a permanent replacement.
Several council members indicated the move was made after Lutzow expressed a degree of frustration with some city hall employees that weren’t as responsive to her in the role as acting city manager assuming that she would soon return to her role as human resources director. She was hired by Ogden — nine months prior to the council putting him on ice — to run the human resources department.
Once Lutzow had the title of interim city manager, then Police Chief Jodie Estarziau was placed on paid administrative leave as was finance director Jeri Tejeda who ended up securing a job with a nearby city. Public Works Director Mark Houghton was then removed from his post by Lutzow.
When members of the council wanted to make Lutzow the permanent city manager, Breitenbucher again balked. He doubled down on Lutzow’s lack of experience — a point made a number of times at council meetings — and pushed for a recruitment search but to no avail.
Given that the only positions the council has hiring and firing authority are the city manager and city attorney, the 4-1 decision to make Lutzow the permanent city manager essentially meant the council majority had little or no qualms with her decisions involving the senior management team.
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