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Friday, November 16 , 2018, 3:41 pm | Fair 69º

 
 
 
 

Lompoc Council Members Make Move To Fire City Manager

A pair of attempts to potentially fire Lompoc City Manager Patrick Wiemiller failed Tuesday night, as the relationship between the city's top employee and some council members soured further.

At the end of the meeting, Councilman Jim Mosby asked his fellow council members to set an emergency meeting in 48 hours “for possible discipline action or termination of the city manager.”

Councilman Victor Vega provided a second for the motion, which failed to get a needed third vote.

Later, Vega tried again, seeking a meeting to review Wiemiller’s performance, but the motion still failed.

“I would appreciate a little bit more support on this one, ” Vega said.

But Councilman Dirk Starbuck asked for the motion to be brought up during the Sept. 19 meeting. 

Wiemiller was hired in December 2013 after working for 13 years for the city of Fresno, including as public works director and utilities director.

His hiring in Lompoc marked the first time in more than four decades that the city had not filled the top job from within existing staff.

Lompoc City Manager Patrick Wiemiller may be at risk of losing his job, as at least two City Council members seem inclined to fire him. Click to view larger
Lompoc City Manager Patrick Wiemiller may be at risk of losing his job, as at least two City Council members seem inclined to fire him. 

In recent months, Wiemiller and some council members have had tense exchanges during meetings, especially regarding budget matters. 

Tuesday’s meeting began with Wiemiller apologizing for an earlier interaction with Vega, adding that he meant no disrespect but was trying to end the conversation.

“I just ask Councilman Vega for forgiveness on that, and I just want to get my apology on the record,” Wiemiller said. 

Councilman Jim Mosby asked City Attorney Joe Pannone if the exchange could be considered insubordination.

The attorney said use of insubordination involved a legal conclusion with many implications, and should be addressed in closed session. 

The exchange occurred during the Aug. 22 council meeting.

Wiemiller has maintained during the multiple budget sessions that he hires city staff, fending off efforts to eliminate specific positions including ending the fire marshal job as a stand-alone position and making the slot a battalion chief with extra duties.

The city manager also has repeatedly rejected efforts to publicly discuss specific positions and personnel issues, noting a clear line divides the city manager’s job and council’s role.

“So the question needs to be asked — you as the city manager do you recognize the council as being the policymakers and providing a direction? So if we were to place this as a directive, would you follow it?" Vega asked Aug. 22.

“It sounds like you’re telling me you wouldn’t,” Vega said. 

“I’m not answering that question,” the city manager said.

“Well, it’s a direct question. I would like an answer, sir,” Vega added.

“I’m sure you would,” Wiemiller added.

At the end of Tuesday’s meeting, Councilwoman Jenelle Osborne commented on council members’ behavior.

“There’s a level professionalism that we’re expected to bring to this when we’re elected, and the current behavior from council has been abhorrent,” she said. 

“I don’t mind us asking the difficult questions. I don’t mind having hard discussions, but when we impugn individuals, when we attack personalities, when we’re disappointed with them because we don’t agree with them, we’re behaving badly.”

As representatives of the community, council members’ behavior is watched by industry and businesses considering locating in Lompoc, she said. 

“I would implore my fellow council members to think about professional behavior and what that means and what that reflects on you and how that reflects on our community. I’m disappointed in recent behaviors and I’m disappointed in recent headlines and I’m disappointed in some of the personalities that have been revealed,” she added.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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