Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
This photo from a November City Council meeting shows the council deliberating.
City Administrator David Tooley has resigned “for the purposes of retirement,” according to City Attorney Brent Richardson, who made the announcement quickly with no other comment Wednesday night after a special closed-session meeting of the City Council.
Richardson said another personnel item, also discussed by the council in closed session, remained unresolved.
The announcement was made after 8 p.m. to what had been an almost full-house audience in attendance when the meeting started in Council Chambers at 6 p.m.
Normally, second-Tuesday council meeting audiences are thinly attended. Their agendas are filled with mostly administrative matters and reports. But this meeting’s agenda also included the two closed-session items, and as a result, most seats were filled, mostly with people who wanted to learn the outcome of the closed sessions on personnel matters.
A lot of those people had left, however, by the time Richardson made his announcement.
After the announcement of Tooley’s resignation and intention to retire, Mayor Andy Medellin closed the public meeting, angrily declined to answer any press questions, and he and council members then ignored questions from the few remaining citizens.
Tooley, 63, had held the city administrator position for the last 25 years, making him one of the longest-serving city administrators in the state. But he recently had been dogged with allegations that salaries and raises that some residents saw as excessive, especially as the city is grappling with an anticipated budget deficit, had been granted to certain top city employees, including himself.
No interim city administrator had been named as of Thursday morning, according to City Clerk Sonia Alvarez, who said an item to select one would be added to an upcoming council agenda for discussion.
City resident Maria Garcia, who had spent some 2 1/2 hours at the meeting, stood up and loudly voiced frustration when the meeting was abruptly closed.
Garcia, who continued talking aloud after the meeting was adjourned and council members were leaving their seats and talking among themselves, was pointedly ignored as she demanded answers.
“What about the budget (deficit)...?” she asked. “It’s all over the news. The chief of police making $275,000, the city clerk making $181,000 ... and more than Merced? When are you going to discuss those things? A 50 percent raise in four years for administration? The community needs to know ... The city manager makes $330,000 a year ... Who makes (and approves) those raises?” Garcia shouted.
“These Madera (city administrators) are making more than any other cities. When are you (the city council) going to answer those questions?” she asked.
After a few minutes more, Council Member Will Oliver approached Garcia and requested she attend the meeting next week to speak during public comment, which would still not likely result in the answers Garcia sought, as it would not be an item on the agenda.
Garcia said she was shocked at what she had recently heard about the salaries and raises paid to senior city staff.
“How is this possible, when people in Madera can’t make ends meet, or they work two jobs? Or are on food stamps? These people are making more than Fresno or Merced, and for what? This is unbelievable, this is Madera. It’s wrong. I can’t believe you guys.” she said loudly.
Garcia also said she felt disrespected and said she thought the announcement everyone was concerned about and waited for — the salaries and raises issue — was left until the very end of the evening on purpose, to discourage pubic awareness and participation.
“Hey, wait a minute where’re you guys going? You are supposed to give us an answer about those things ...” Garcia demanded of the mayor and council, only to be ignored as council members closed the meeting, spoke among themselves, and then had the council chamber doors locked.
“This is bad,” said one man. “And it makes Madera look bad. Something is going on here. Maybe we need to think about cleaning house — like a recall ...” he said, shaking his head.
Joanna Torres also sat through the meeting and added her concerns. “The (city) is raising our taxes and our water (bills). This is not right. Obviously the money is there. But they decided to pay themselves more money first, and then raise the rates and taxes on the poorer people. That’s the real problem here,” Torres said.
The next meeting of the Madera City Council will be Dec. 20 at 6 p.m.
Messages for the mayor and members of the City Council can be left at 661-5405. Regular meetings of the Madera City Council are held the first and third Wednesday of each month at 6 p.m. Meetings are held in the Council Chambers at City Hall, located at 205 W. 4th St., Madera, and are open to the public. Agendas are posted at City Hall at least 72 hours prior to council meetings, and also are available on the city’s web site.