The search for Oxnard’s city manager ended at a City Council meeting early Wednesday morning around 12:45 a.m. Greg Nyhoff, city manager of Modesto, was chosen by the council by a 4-1 vote. Bert Perello dissented.
Since January 2012, Oxnard has made do without a permanent city manager. Former city manager Ed Sotelo was placed on paid administrative leave while under investigation for corruption by the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office. While in the end no charges were filed, at least a dozen former officials were fined for violating gift reporting rules, including Sotelo. The DA cited bad record keeping for making prosecution impossible.
This January, however, nearly a year after Sotelo’s contract expired, the City Council began its search for a new city manager. Two finalists were selected from 54 applicants — Nyhoff and Chandra Wallar, former CEO of Santa Barbara. Last week, the Nyhoff and Wallar sat through more than an hour’s worth of public commentary at a packed meeting room at the Residence Inn in Oxnard. Many longtime Oxnard residents had expressed their dismay at the meeting over the candidate selection and accused the council of being nontransparent in its search.
“I object to your consideration of any candidate who brings his or her own controversial baggage to our city when we were desperately trying to shed our own,” said Oxnard resident Dan Pinedo. “If these two candidates are the best, I am stunned.”
Close to 150 people had mostly general comments to make to the City Council in regard to transparency, ethics and the selection process at the public meeting the week prior. Some criticized Wallar for moving regularly from city to city, and questioned why her contract was not renewed by the Santa Barbara Board of Supervisors by a 5-0 vote. Nyhoff was not presented with as many challenging questions from the crowd.
Nyhoff used his introductory time to talk of his accomplishments and compared the job of city manager to building a level foundation, while Wallar, responding to comments made regarding her history, listed examples from her past in which she worked with the communities of Little Rock, Ark., and San Diego to overcome challenges.
Throwing some controversy into the process, when the two finalists were announced last week, the local chapter of the NAACP accused the City Council of being racist in the selection process, citing the fact that interim city manager Karen Burnham wasn’t given an interview for the position. (Of Oxnard’s 13 City Hall managers, six are African-American.) The NAACP hasn’t since spoken publicly again on the matter.
Nyhoff’s appointment will be ratified at a public session next week. Compensation, while discussed prior to the closed door session, was not confirmed.