City manager wars! Montebello OKs new contract to keep top boss from leaving
Montebello’s City Manager Rene Bobadilla, who only two days ago seemed to have been hired away by Santa Monica for fill the same position for that city, will be staying put after the City Council agreed to give him a $68,500 annual raise plus some other perks to convince him to stay.
The new, five-year contract was approved Wednesday, June 9. The official announcement came Thursday afternoon.
Bobadilla, who arrived in Montebello only two years ago, will make $318,500 annually. On July 1, he will get the 2.53% raise other directors are receiving. He also will receive $5,000 more in a deferred compensation plan and lifetime medical benefits.
In addition, if let go — unless at least four of five council members vote to fire him — he will receive 18 months’ severance pay.
It’s quite a rise for Bobadilla. His starting salary at Montebello two years ago was for $240,000.
Mayor Kimberly Cobos Cawthorne said at Wednesday’s meeting the city needs to retain Bobadilla because he has stabilized a city that faced money and personnel problems.
Before his tenure, a state audit concluded the city’s finances were precarious. Bobadilla succeeded two interim city managers who took over when City Manager Francesca Tucker-Schuyler was first placed on indefinite leave in November 2017.
“If the captain leaves, will the directors leave?” Cawthorne asked. “Will the assistant city manager leave? Look, we’re more secure, and we have stability.”
Also before Bobadila was hired, it was difficult to get projects done because of the turnover in city managers, she said.
In an emailed statement, Bobadilla said this is the right decision for him and his family at this stage of his career.
“I sincerely appreciate the vote of confidence and support the Montebello council has made, and the terms of their offer demonstrate their desire to continue building on the collaboration and cooperation we’ve been able to establish,” he said.
“I genuinely thank the council for their commitment and backing as we enhance our partnership for the benefit of our residents and the community,” Bobadilla said
Bobadilla said he also is grateful for the opportunity, interest and consideration afforded to him by the city of Santa Monica.
Councilman David Torres, who cast the lone no vote Wednesday, complained Bobadilla now would become the only city employee to receive lifetime medical benefits.
Torres dubbed the provisions “a handsome gesture” but said he couldn’t support the new contract, calling it too expensive.
“This will take a huge chunk out of our budget,” he said. A surplus of $278,760 was predicted for the year ending in June 2022, but that was calculated before the raise.
“I’m very much in favor of you continuing to work in our city,” Torres said. “As Montebello deserves the best, we have to be realistic and think if we can afford it. Unfortunately, I can’t support a package that is this extravagant.”
Councilman Salvador Melendez disagreed, saying paying Bobadilla more to keep him in Montebello is a good move.
“Our city manager is worth every penny and even more,” Melendez said. “He’s completely changed the dynamics of the city. He tackled our pension obligations and saved over $20 million. We have to do everything we can to ensure he stays in the city.”
After enthusiastically reporting Bobadilla would come to Santa Monica just two days earlier, Mayor Sue Himmelrich announced Thursday the winds of change.
“We will take up this matter at our next Council meeting and remain confident that we will hire an exceptional, energetic leader for our world-class organization,” Himmelrich said in a statement.
Santa Monica has a total city budget of about $706 million, while Montebello’s is about $161 million.