Morro Bay mayor wants to hire lawyer for advice on city manager, attorney

ktanner@thetribunenews.comSeptember 19, 2013 

Morro Bay Mayor Jamie Irons will ask the City Council on Tuesday to approve spending up to $12,500 — at $250 an hour — for outside legal advice on “city manager and city attorney personnel contracts and related issues.” The staff report calls that figure “a conservative, high-end estimate.”

Irons launched an effort last week to fire the two longtime city employees, City Manager Andrea Lueker and City Attorney Robert Schultz. Lueker and Schultz serve “at will” and can be fired with or without cause.

“Since the city attorney cannot represent his personal interests at the same time he is representing the city, and there is a desire to have closure done with transparency and confidentiality to resolve this personnel matter with the city attorney and the city manager, it is recommended that the City Council obtain independent legal counsel,” the staff report for Tuesday’s discussion concluded.

Irons and council members Christine Johnson and Noah Smukler have remained mum about the reason they’re considering firing the two employees. Lueker and Schultz also have not commented.

The two other council members, Nancy Johnson and George Leage, have said they disagree vehemently with the proposed firings and the calling of a special meeting last week. They have praised the two employees.

Leage has called Shultz “irreplaceable,” saying “he knows every niche, nook, cranny and crack about what’s happening in the city.”

“Andrea’s been holding everything together in some hard times … I think she’s done a wonderful job,” he added.

A campaign is underway to recall Irons — and perhaps Johnson and Smukler — who voted with him to set the special meeting Sept. 12 to consider firing Lueker and Schultz, who have been with the city since 1987 and 1997, respectively.

Irons said at the Sept. 12 meeting that no charges or complaints had been filed against either employee. When asked in an email sent by a reporter what triggered his move to fire the city manager and attorney, the mayor said only, “Legal counsel will help clarify what appears to be confusing. It's difficult to move through personnel matters.”

Irons said of the recall, “I will stand by my conviction for all the right reasons, regardless of the consequences to me.”

He said, “While I’m not proud” that there’s a recall attempt, “I do love that we (voters) have that right” to initiate such an action.

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