The Madera City Council declined to renew the employment contracts of two long-time city department heads, in closed session negotiations on March 20. The two department heads already had notified their staffs last week they would be leaving, and will be utilizing some leave already accrued, according to city officials, who declined to comment further on the departures.
In a move that surprised city staff, David Merchen, the longtime community development director, and Mary Anne Seay, the director of parks and community services since 2007, no longer will be employed with the city, as of April 7. No severance amounts would be paid by the city because the neither of the department heads was terminated.
Both were thought to be residents of Clovis, which had provoked the ire of some Madera residents who think senior executives should live in Madera.
In allegedly tense and lengthy negotiations the month before, the two department heads had already accepted and signed contracts with significantly reduced fringe benefits, but those new contracts were rejected outright, as not going far enough, by a majority of the Madera City Council.
City budget problems led some residents to make protest signs declaring, “Madera Deserves Better,” and brought them to the steps of City hall in December of 2017, saying it was about time a house cleaning at city hall was done, after senior staff salary and benefits packages costing the city between $225,000 to $320,000 came to light over a year ago.
They also said the city had more work to do in protecting the taxpayers instead of overpaying senior staff.
These departures are the fourth and fifth department heads to leave, resign, retire or not have their contracts renewed since the abrupt resignation and retirement of former city manager David Tooley in December of 2017.
Long time resident, builder and developer Mike Pistoresi also said the changes at city hall were a long time coming, but “It was very refreshing to hear that a majority of the City Council decided to eliminate two of the very expensive employees of the city, in addition to the changes they have already made. This will save the taxpayers of Madera a significant amount of money in salaries and future PERS (Public Employee Retirement System) contributions. It will also go a long way towards helping to balance the deficit budget that this City is faced with,” he said.
Pistoresi and others had long been advocating the city should be run more like a business, with increased transparency and more resident oversight and fiscal accountability.
“Congratulations to the council members who had the courage to stand up to the corruption that this city has been plagued with for so long under it’s past leadership. Keep up the great job and don’t stop there,” Pistoresi said.