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Frank Stands By Brown's Appointment, Says Council Approval Not Required

City Manager Michael Frank noted that, as a retiree, interim appointee Bob Brown is exempt from council approval for a contract position.

Last week the City of Novato announced the to replace out-going Development Director . Ann Moore was named as interim general plan manager, and Bob Brown as interim community development director.

The announcement, particularly of Brown - former - has sparked many comments and letters to editor , most  of them in opposition to Brown’s appointment. An , published earlier today, said Brown was an “activist” who might “therefore [be] unwilling to explore options that veer from his stated beliefs.”

, a member of , also questioned whether Brown could remain neutral in executing his duties, even as he shares the position with Moore.  An extended quote follows:

"… both employees will have to wear both hats in order that one planner or the other can cover the city's needs during business hours. In view of Bob Brown’s biases and his own agenda to apply San Rafael’s planning principles in Novato, in his collaboration with Ms. Moore, would he be able to maintain the agreed upon Housing Group recommendations and Council's approved Housing Element of 20 units per acre if he works for the City of Novato?"

In response to a call to City Hall, – currently on vacation -- contacted Novato Patch to discuss the appointments. He made note of the fact that while Anne Moore’s appointment did need to be approved by the city council at their next meeting (Tuesday, Feb. 28, 6:30 p.m.), Bob Brown’s appointment did not.

“Anne Moore is not a retiree,” he said. “She has her own consulting business and worked lots of places. So I need to take her contract, because it exceeds my contracting authority, to the council to get approved. So that’s going to council on Tuesday.

“The other position I’m hiring is Bob Brown, who is a retiree. PIRS [or Cal-CPIRS, the California Public Employees Retirement System] at first told us, when you hire someone who’s a retiree who is in the PIRS system, you need to get council approval.  But then we went back to them for what the resoltuion should look like, and they said we didn't need council approval."

To clarify the differing opinions from Cal-PIRS -- a not-unusual occurrence, Frank said -- his offices contacted a higher manager at the state organization for a final decision, and they agreed that no council approval was needed.

"It’s not a contract [as] we’re going to hire him as a temporary employee,” Frank said. "So I'll be making that appointment myself." He also said that he expects both Brown and Moore will be one-year appointments.

“That’s being said,” he added, “the public is welcome to speak at public comment time on whatever they want to comment on.” Public comments are generally allowed at the beginning of City Council meetings.

“I was not looking to hire Bob Brown,” Frank said firmly. “I went through a full-on recruitment process and after interviewing the candidates, and I had a panel, he ended up on top as the most qualified person – for what we need done in our city, in that department at this point in time.”

As Boorstein and other commenters have noted, however, there is some feeling that Brown has a personal agenda or take on the issues that might affect his ability to perform. Frank was quick to address those concerns.

“Bob Brown is a professional,” he said. “His job when he’s a professional is [to] implement council policy, number one. But number two, in this case I don’t have him working on anything to do with the general plan … aside from implementing it.”

Frank went on to address the issue of splitting up the now-vacated Community Development position. “The housing issues are such hot issues in the community, that’s exactly why I broke up the position.  I didn’t want to try and hire a full time community development director, who you want to stay in your community for a long period of time… [who will be] raked over the coals as a result of what’s going on with our general plan process.”

As of this point, the original article on Brown’s co-appointment with Moore has generated 15 comments, and Tina McMillan’s opinion piece has begun to generate comment as well. If it becomes too much an issue, I asked Frank, is it possible he would reconsider?

“I always have an open mind,” he responded, “but the chances of me reconsidering -- unless there was information that I did not consider when making the appointment, it would be unlikely that I would make a different decision.”

As far as a possible highly vocal opposition to Brown at Tuesday night’s council meeting?  “I understand, we’re used to that.”

Mark Schoenbaum February 25, 2012 at 11:55 PM
@bill, My point exactly - too embarrassed to be associated with what they post.
Pam Drew February 26, 2012 at 03:44 PM
I nominate Michael Reyff's De Tocqueville quote as the best quote of the decade. I nominate Valerie Hopkin's quote, "Personally, as a homeowner in Novato, I'd like to see the eradication of the racist-elite around here. They are the biggest threat to our community.." as the worst. When people advocate eradication of an elite--ANY so-called elite--in comments about the appointment of a community development co-director it signals that they have lost perspective. This phenomenon illustrates a sort of control mechanism at work to perpetuate the edicts of the Association of Bay Area Governments despite the wild inaccuracy of its jobs projections. Dick Spotswood said it best in his column in today's IJ. How about Novato hiring someone like Palo Alto's "Curtis Williams, the city's planning director, [who] highlighted a number of concerns in a report last month. Economic projections, he wrote, "appear to be substantially overstated" and the regional housing projections are too high and are "driven by unrealistic employment projections."

"The basic goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions is not well-served by overstating projections, which then require even more extensive resources and more dramatic land use and transportation changes than would be required with more realistic estimates," Williams wrote." Oh, right, Curtis Williams would have been eradicated. Quote was from Palo Alto Weekly by Gennady Shayner, http://www.marinij.com/opinion/ci_20040476.
SHROYER FOR SUPERVISOR 2014 February 26, 2012 at 08:33 PM
One of the many reasons why I love Novato and choose to raise my multi-racial children here is because it is so welcoming and diverse. Novato has been the leader in Affordable/low income housing in Marin County. Novato has 20% of the population of Marin and 33% of Marin's Affordable/low-income housing. That does not include all of Novato's Section 8 vouchers. If one checks out the city of Ross on the ABAG website you can hardly see the graph showing affordable housing, where Novato graph is very long. Perhaps we can all join together in supporting School Fuel, Novato's Public School Foundation and volunteering in our low wealth School District and help out. Back on topic: Michael Frank vision for Novato is very different from most people in Novato and that is most unfortunate. We need to have a city manager shares the vision of the residents and is fiscally responsible. Going forward we can advocate for leaders like they have in Palo Alto! They are fighting back against bogus ABAG projections!
Eleanor Sluis February 26, 2012 at 09:01 PM
Thanks to Pam and Tina for emphasizing certain criteria in the hiring of managers and consultants. The City Council has agreed to a rural/suburban designation for Novato. It has agreed to 20 units per acre for low-cost housing units. With the bonus, this means building 26-30 units per acre. By hiring Bob Brown who worked to get more units in San Rafael, the question needs to be raised then is this how the city manager feels? If the city manager is unwilling to find a qualified person who fits into Novato’s vision of a small rural/suburban town then does he need to resign? Many people resign from their jobs in government and in the private sector when their vision does not correlate with the current employers. Do Michael Frank and Bob Brown both need to look at the inconsistency of their views as differing from that of the city council and of the many neighborhood-housing groups? Thereby, will they realize that neither of them appear to be a good fit for Novato and would possibly do better working for an urban area in which their potential can be better put to use? Resignations might be a way to go.
Lloyd February 27, 2012 at 12:34 AM
I would be curious to hear how many people Mr. Frank actually interviewed and how wide a net he cast. I would also like an explanation if Mr Frank first consulted with the City Council and what if any feedback they provided. I would like Mr Frank to go beyond saying that technically he didn't need any approval and explain how he reconciled the type of development for affordable housing put forward in a recent letter to ABAG by the Council and Mr. Brown's obvious, stated opposite views to our housing element and vision of what we want for our town going forward. I am willing to hear what is said Tuesday. If it becomes obvious that Mr Frank has made an error, which many believe he did, I would hope he would take ownership and correct that mistake. If not the Council should be required to take action necessary to protect the integrity of our commitment to moving forward with a staff that is in line and capable of producing the results intended by the Council. After all the staff and City Manager work for us and our stated aims and goals.

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