Esther Kang

Manhattan Beach City Council, residents picture ideal city manager

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The Manhattan Beach City Council officially kicked off the search process for a new city manager Tuesday night by collecting the first sample of input from residents and community members about desired traits in their ideal candidate.

Though the turnout of participants numbered a modest half dozen, a consensus quickly emerged in the Council Chambers: Interim City Manager John Jalili, who took on the post last November following former City Manager Dave Carmany’s termination, is the model for what both these residents and Council members want in the next city manager.

“He listens, he doesn’t paint eyeballs on his eyelids, he has suggestions, ” said resident Bill Victor. “ … He wants to help lubricate the process of open government, and he’s done a great job. It’s too bad we caught him so late in his career. He’s a mentor and a model of what I’d hope to see in the future.”

Earlier this month, the city tapped recruiting firm Teri Black & Company to undertake the search process for the next Manhattan Beach city manager. This comes several months after the abrupt termination of Carmany, who was dismissed by the Council unanimously in a closed session.

At the time, then Mayor David Lesser had indicated the Council desired to move in “a new direction.”

Carmany began his post in January 2011 following a scandal that prompted the abrupt departure of predecessor Geoff Dolan, who tied the city up in a laborious and expensive legal proceeding after suing the city for breach of contract and invasion of privacy for releasing an anonymous letter accusing him of sexual harassment. He believed it was confidential under his resignation agreement, but a judge ultimately dismissed the lawsuit under the state’s Anti-SLAPP statute and ordered him to pay the city $38,800 in attorney fees.

Despite Mayor Amy Howorth’s pleading to not become mired in the past, a few residents on Tuesday urged the Council to remember the city’s recent history with its city managers and think also about the qualities the city would not want.

“History repeats itself partly because…people weren’t listening the first time,” Victor said. “So history does have a bearing on what we’d like in the future.”

Councilman Mark Burton suggested the city has learned from the past by selecting Jalili, who served for 15 years as Santa Monica’s city manager and as interim city manager for the cities of Malibu, Lomita and Hermosa Beach.

“He’s teaching all of us what a top-notch city manager is,” Burton said. “And he’s teaching staff what a top-notch city manager is, and our residents are recognizing that … He fully informs the City Council and residents, and he truly respects the City Council and residents.”

Kelly Stroman, executive director of the Manhattan Beach Downtown Business Partners Association, told the Council that in addition to being genuine and sincere like Jalili, the next city manager should preferably have experience and knowledge in land use policy and capital improvement to help the city conceive and implement a specific economic plan for its downtown.

Jalili noted that residents can continue to give input on desired traits in their city manager through an online survey and during the public comment portion of subsequent City Council meetings. Recruitment will close on March 3 and by early April, the firm will identify top candidates. By mid to late April, Council could begin interviewing those top candidates and introduce a new city manager as early as May 6, Jalili said.

In a related matter, the Council voted 4-1 to hire a firm to help the city implement a new policy governance model in which the city manager serves as the Chief Administrative Officer under the City Council, which acts as a board of trustees. With Tuesday’s motion, the city will be issuing a request for proposals.