Drama drives San Juan city council to adjourn early

Proposed change to interim city manager employment terms sparks confusion

San Juan Bautista City Hall

Drama on the dais caused the San Juan Bautista City Council meeting on Tuesday to adjourn early as as one council member repeatedly asked for clarification on the same point to the consternation and bewilderment of those in the room.

The issue stemmed from a proposal to add hours to the weekly duties of Interim City Manager Ed Tewes.

“In our current agreement, based on the analysis that had been given to you on Sept. 19, the council limited the hours to 30-32 hours a week,” Tewes said. “I think it’s clearly more than that and if the council wants to recognize that, it would be appropriate.”

The San Juan Bautista council hired Tewes as interim city manager in September after the abrupt resignation of former city manager and city engineer Roger Grimsley. The council hired Pleasanton-based 4Leaf Inc. to handle engineering duties. The consulting firm holds contracts with the City of Hollister and San Benito County.

“I know he’s putting in more than he’s getting paid for already,” Councilman Tony Boch said of Tewes, who was recently the interim city manager for the City of Gilroy and assisted in the recruitment of its current top administrator.

The interim city manager isn’t a salaried employee and is instead billed hourly. Council members approved $50 per hour with no benefits when they hired Tewes last month.

Councilman Dan DeVries, who showed up to the meeting an hour late, asked Tewes to clarify.

“What you’re saying is therefore you want more hours?” DeVries asked. “You want us, this vote right now will be to increase the amount of hours, right?”

The council had yet to put a motion on the table.

Tewes explained that his employment contract with the city stated he’d be paid an hourly rate of no more than 32 hours per week.

“I believe the mayor’s proposal is to increase that to 40 hours a week,” Tewes said.

Mayor Chris Martorana confirmed: “That’s correct.”

Tewes, who has over 40 years of experience in communities including Gilroy and Morgan Hill, had big shoes to fill when he took on the top job at city hall in San Juan Bautista.

Former city manager Grimsley, who served in a number of high profile roles in Hollister during the 1970s and 1980s, also acted as the city engineer and resigned after coming under fire from community members and elected officials for allegedly approving significant alterations to a portion of the Rancho Vista housing development currently under construction in San Juan Bautista without having the developer first seek approval from elected city representatives.

City Attorney Deborah Mall explained to the council that she drafted Tewes’ contract like an employment agreement.

“When you increase the hours to 40, Mr. Tewes will not get overtime under that contract,” Mall said.

“So do we have to be mindful of the amount of overtime hours that is spent on this contract as drafted?” asked DeVries.

Mall explained the interim city manager was exempt from overtime provisions.

“We don’t really have to look at that unless he goes under. Then you’re worried about that because it’s assuming he’ll work 40-plus hours.”

DeVries still didn’t seem to grasp the concept, much to the frustration of the council and audience.

The mayor tried to simplify things after some bickering.

“If you have some issue please address it specifically,” Martorana said.

“I don’t have an issue,” DeVries said. “What I would like is the whole thing stated clearly. What is he asking?” DeVries pointed to Tewes.

“He didn’t ask for anything,” Martorana said.

DeVries asked for further clarification.

“You are the motion maker then?” DeVries asked.

Martorana was visibly frustrated.

“The mayor!” he said. “That’s me. I asked for this.”

At that point, an audience member got up to address the council.

“With all due respect, I think that adjournment right now would be very wise,” she said. “Please do that. This is getting embarrassing and I think that the citizens of this city deserve a lot more than what we’re getting and being exposed to right now.”

The mayor faced resistance when he initially moved to adjourn and proceeded to ask for a roll call vote.

Mayor Martorana, Vice Mayor Jim West and Councilman Boch voted to adjourn, with

Councilman John Freeman and Councilman DeVries dissenting.

“What just happened?” DeVries asked the mayor as the meeting ended.

Good question.

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