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MOORHEAD: MEN ON MANTECA COUNCIL TREATED DIFFERENTLY
Ogden’s decision to ask for more council direction on Moorhead’s request for information on city clerk appointment options triggers discrimination claim
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By DENNIS WYATT

The Bulletin

Manteca City Councilwoman  Debby Moorhead contends City Manager Tim Ogden is “discriminating” against her based on how she perceives Ogden deals with the four male members of the City Council.

Moorhead said she intends to lay out her case as to how she believes she is being treated differently as a council member because she is a woman and not a man at Tuesday’s council meeting when elected officials are scheduled to decide whether to direct staff to prepare a report and recommendation on how the city clerk is appointed.

The dust up comes just weeks before the council is scheduled to evaluate Ogden’s job performance.

Moorhead says her request made at the last council meeting to have the item placed on the agenda has been treated “significantly different” than two requests that Mayor Ben Cantu made at the same meeting to have two items placed on the Tuesday agenda

Cantu’s two requests are listed as action items involving the council creating ad hoc committees regarding affordable housing and the government lobbyist. In each case the items are worded on the agendas in such a manner that the council Tuesday can legally appoint members as well as direct the committee on what areas and issues they should explore instead of asking for the council whether they want  staff to research Cantu’s request as is being done with Moorhead’s request.

 In the case of Moorhead’s request, instead of bringing back information to the council that she requested  at the last meeting on options on how the council can appoint a city clerk, Ogden had it listed as “consider directing staff to prepare a report and a recommendation.”

“I’m the only (council member) that makes a request for an item to be placed on the agenda at a public meeting (under council comments) that before staff can work on it, the rest of the council has to vote on it,” Moorhead said.

Ogden on Sunday noted exploring changing how the city clerk is appointed “has significant ramifications” plus will take a considerable amount of time to prepare a report on the pluses and pitfalls. Although he did not elaborate, Ogden indicated once the process is started it could create major issues and concerns. That is why he wants to make sure the council majority wants the staff to move forward.

One potential issue may revolve around the fact current City Clerk Lisa Blackmon is  hired by the city manager and is a sitting department head and as such could create personnel issues. The council currently hires only two city employees — the city attorney and the city manager. A previous council in 2000 asked the electorate to eliminate the direct election by voters of the city clerk as well as city treasurer. After that measure was approved, that council empowered the city manager to hire city clerks and city treasurers.

The city manager is hired by council to run the city and implement policy decisions and directions that a majority of the council agrees upon.


Moorhead believes she

Is having access to

city hall hampered

Moorhead in recent months has expressed concerns that her access to various city personnel is being blocked  and has implied that Ogden has directed Blackmon in several instances not to provide information Moorhead requested. Ogden said that is not the case. Blackmon could not be reached for a comment on Sunday.

Moorhead laid out her perspective that her request about information for the council to decide whether it is better to have the city clerk appointed directly by the  council or by the city manager is not an isolated incident.

She said it is effectively undercutting her ability to be an effective representative of the people who elected her to represent them on city issues.

“It’s sad that as a city council member I can’t get information as easily as other council members,” Moorhead said.

She added that the only difference that she can see that could be the reason is that she is a woman.

Moorhead has never brought up gender-related issue previously  in terms of how she has been treated as a council member by staff.

After her election, she did ask then Mayor Willie Weatherford to refer to her as “councilwoman” as opposed to “council member.” It was a request that Weatherford shared with the public at the start of her first official meeting so an impression would not be created that she was being addressed differently due to her gender but that he was simply honoring Moorhead’s request.


Moorhead said she was

also marginalized by

‘the good ol’ boys’

Her concerns date back to the previous council when Moorhead — currently the longest service council members with 11 years and only the fifth woman in the city’s 101-year history of incorporation to serve on the council — said she was marginalized by “the good ol’ boys”.

Several council members said that is a reference to former Mayor Steve DeBrum and former Councilman Mike Morowit — who were defeated last year  — and former Councilman Richard Silverman who opted not to seek a second term.

Mayor Ben Cantu agreed with that assessment from observations he said he had made of the previous council. Cantu also said Moorhead and Ogden have had issues but that he believed the situation had been improving while agreeing with Moorhead it can be better.

Cantu said the concerns Moorhead is expressing need to be addressed and is confident a resolution can be reached.

DeBrum, on Sunday, when contacted by the Bulletin, disagreed there was ever a attempt to marginalize Moorhead.


Ogden has pressed

for clarification on

direction given by council

Ogden, for his part, since being hired as city manager has made it a point to make sure he — and in turn staff — was getting clear direction from the council in terms of actual votes that are taken plus to obtain consensus on a non-action items that are for staff to research various items.

That hasn’t been the case with some of his predecessors who would not ask the council to clarify what exactly they wanted staff to do when they passed motions that weren’t specific on various issues.

In the case of the information on how cities can appoint city clerks, Moorhead was the only one that made the request and made comments.  That said there have been other times when another council member has brought up items under council comments to be placed on the next meeting’s agenda and no other council members have made a comment one way of the other.

Ogden, in this case, said he brought Moorhead’s request back before the council for staff to research the city clerk’s appointment due to the unique ramifications.

The Manteca Municipal Code under section 2.08.080 addresses the city manager’s relationship to the city council.

It states, “The city council and its members shall deal with the administrative services of the city only through the city manager, except for the purpose of inquiry, and neither the city council not any member thereof shall give orders to any subordinates of the city manager. The city manager shall take his or her orders and instructions from the city council only when sitting in a duly held meeting of the city council and no individual councilmember shall give any order or instructions to the city manager.”


The request made at

te special meeting

Moorhead during the special council meeting earlier this month asked Blackmon to research the legal options that exist in California for general law cities as to how the city clerk position can be filled and provide the information to the council at their next meeting.

Moorhead said she wanted to look at the options and decide if they are “good for us or not.”

Moorhead after that meeting said she wanted to make sure the city clerk worked for the council and not the city manager when it came to council-specific issues in addition to the legal requirements that the position must fulfill under state law. Most cities are organized so that the city clerk is a department head while a few convey the title of assistant city manager on the city clerk making it clear who may be in charge of overseeing the running of a city in the city manager’s absence.

The California Government Code allows for the city clerk in general law cities such as Manteca and charter cities such as Stockton may be directly elected by voters or appointed by the City Council or City Manager.

Manteca during its first 81 years as an incorporated city had city clerks that were voted into office directly by voters. That changed in 2000 when voters approved a measure allowing the council to appoint the city clerk.


The council meets Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Civic Center, 1001 W. Center St.