It wasn’t a well-kept secret. And the description for Thursday afternoon’s closed session agenda items before the Mammoth Lakes Town Council all but gave it away.
1. Council will hold a conference to consider appointment of a public employee: town manager
2. Council will hold a conference to consider discipline/dismissal/release of a public employee.
Obviously, to appoint a town manager, you have to lose one, so … it looks like Town Manager Dave Wilbrecht or Assistant Manager Marianna Marysheva-Martinez are primed for departure.
Wilbrecht is the far more likely casualty.
But leave it to Council to not act Thursday, thus reducing Wilbrecht to lame duck status.
Council will meet again Monday.
I suppose Wilbrecht is getting a taste of the medicine Council similarly dished out to the Mammoth Lakes Police Dept.
Dead Man Walking.
Removal of Wilbrecht would be a tough blow for the Java Joint, as those regular morning coffee pow-wows between Wilbrecht and Mono County Counsel Marshall Rudolph represented steady business.
The key arithmetic which factors in Council’s current thinking? 2-1 = $300,000+
The key factor in Wilbrecht’s potential dismissal? Perhaps he’s simply lost the stomach for the job.
He’s taken so much vacation over the past few months that I’d been thinking of a few jokes. I imagined an interview with Wilbrecht going something like the following:
“Dave, what’s your favorite movie?”
“Eugene Levy playing the car salesman, selling the Family Truckster to Clark Griswold: ‘You think you hate it now, but wait ‘til you drive it.’”
“Hmmm. Should I read something into this?”
“It’s been my observation that Council’s been dissatisfied with every Town Manager it’s ever driven.”
“We depreciate rapidly once we’re hired.”
“Other favorite movies?
“European Vacation, Christmas Vacation, Vegas Vacation … “
“I’m sensing a trend.”
“No one understands the pressure I face every day. No one’s ever satisfied.”
“That’s why they pay you the big bucks.”
“The big bucks aren’t enough. I want to be loved, too. And live a nice, relaxed lifestyle. And take lots of vacation.”
“It appears you will get your wish.”
On the one hand, this (Wilbrecht’s threatened removal) all appears to have happened very quickly. On the other hand, the signs have been evident for at least a few weeks.
Town records indicate that Wilbrecht took approximately 175 hours of leave time between October 22 and January 21 (that’s ~22 days off, not counting the various holidays like the two days for Thanksgiving, 1.5 days for Christmas, 1.5 days for New Year’s and MLK that all taxeaters receive).
So picture this. Out of the 92 days (weekends included) between Oct. 22 and January 21, records indicate Wilbrecht worked 38 of them.
In the 31 days (weekends included) from Dec. 22 through January 21, records indicate Wilbrecht worked a total of 50 hours.
And this week, Wilbrecht was “working” but he wasn’t even in the office. He was at a League of California Cities convention – hopefully hunting for a new job on the Town’s dime.
At a staff meeting earlier this month, Wilbrecht reportedly told his staff that he was feeling a lot of pressure and needed to take a stress vacation.
“We were all a little surprised by the commentary,” said one senior staffer this week, confirming the report.
Leadership 101. No matter how miserable the leader may be feeling, he’s gotta buck up and fake it. There is no way this incident did not diminish Wilbrecht before the eyes of his staff …
Meanwhile, two key town employees recently announced their resignations. Acting Community Development Director Ellen Clark and Administrative Assistant to the Town Manager/Human Resources Manager Robin Picken are both leaving. In the case of Picken, she is headed to the City of Bishop to become an Executive Secretary/Assistant Town Clerk. Her final day is February 5.
So that was a tell. When two of the nicest, hard-working people within Town government are fleeing the ship, you know things aren’t good.
As Picken said, “With the Town’s commitment to outsourcing … no one feels safe.”
Meanwhile, Mammoth Lakes Police Officers Dan Casabian and David Scobie will be following former cohort Marty Thompson’s lead by leaving the MLPD for the Mono County Sheriff’s Dept.
Police Chief Dan Watson bemoaned the loss. “These are two, mid-career, peak performers.”
Casabian, the subject of well-documented past travails, drew particular praise from the Chief for how he has rebounded from adversity.
On a personal level, I’ve never publicly thanked Casabian and fellow members of the Police Honor Guard for their participation in Skip Harvey’s memorial service last summer. As Bishop-based attorney and part-time bagpiper Douglas Buchanan said after that service, “That’s the best honor guard I’ve ever had the opportunity to work with.”
Town Suffers Ward-loss
All those bad decisions from the bubble years of the mid-2000s … they’re like houseguests who never leave.
Much like Cousin Eddie in the Vacation movies. As Cousin Eddie said in Vegas Vacation, “I haven’t seen a beatin’ like that since somebody stuck a banana in my pants and turned a monkey loose.”
The latest revelation involves former Community Development Director Mark Wardlaw’s home in the Trails.
Back in 2005, as part of its recruitment effort. the Town gave Wardlaw $200,000 in down payment assistance to purchase his home – at a sales price of more than $900,000.
But instead of structuring it as a loan, the Town structured it as an investment. According to Finance Director Cyndi Myrold, the $200,000 gave the Town a 22.1% ownership stake in the property.
At the time, the Town gave the following rationale in the agreement it signed with Wardlaw:
“And Whereas, real property prices have escalated to the point where it has become difficult, if not impossible, for a fairly paid Department Head to purchase a home … “
“And Whereas, Town believes that investing its own funds in residential real property in the Town of Mammoth Lakes and the surrounding unincorporated area of Mono County is both a conservative and safe investment.”
Ah yes, reminds me of the old days when they would all label themselves as “fiscal conservatives” every time they passed a budget.
Wardlaw recently refinanced the home and paid the Town back its 22.1% stake. Unfortunately, that stake was now worth just $132,600.