Brett Miller is acting city manager in Hollister

Brett Miller, Hollister’s assistant city manager and manager of administrative services, is acting city manager.

Miller’s appointment Friday afternoon, Nov. 15, was one of the last acts of Bill Avera on his last day on the job before his retirement as city manager.

One day earlier, Paul Eckert resigned as interim city manager after less than eight days on the job.

The City Council on Monday, Nov. 18, will consider formally approving a payment of “up to $25,000” as a “General Release and Severance agreement” with Eckert, according to the council meeting agenda posted Nov. 15. He also earned more than $5,000 for a prorated portion of his $15,000 monthly salary, 

Eckert had quit his position as city administrator of Gridley, Calif. in late October to take the Hollister city manager post, which had been offered to him after a unanimous city council vote Oct. 21.

When he arrived at Hollister City Hall Nov. 4, expecting to be named city manager, the council reneged on its offer, and instead offered him a 90-day position as interim city manager, pending a second look at his background.

Eckert signed the interim contract Nov. 6 and Mayor Ignacio Velazquez signed it Nov. 8.

Eckert met behind closed doors with the council on Nov. 13, and resigned the next day, barely a week into his three-month contract. The interim city manager contract specifically did not allow for any severance pay.

Council members this week all declined to discuss the reasons for Eckert’s departure, and the city did not release a copy of his resignation letter. Velazquez said he expected the public document would be released at Monday’s council meeting.

The Gridley City Council was to consider rehiring Eckert at its Nov. 18 meeting. Velazquez said Gridley Mayor Bruce Johnson had praised Eckert and said he favored re-hiring the former Sioux City, Iowa, city manager.

Miller, a 10-year city employee, was promoted to administrative services director in 2014. In that role, he has been responsible for all accounting and financial reporting functions including general ledger maintenance, enterprise fund accounting, payroll, accounts payable, accounts receivable, business licensing, cost accounting and capital assets. He was in charge of the $43 million city budget process including revenue and expenditure forecasting, development, presentations to City Council and citizen groups, and ultimate management and monitoring, according to his LinkedIn post.

It was not revealed whether Miller had been one of the two dozen applicants for the city manager position. He was not one of the six finalists interviewed by the council in October, according to council members.

Eckert’s interim appointment Nov. 4 had followed a stormy public reaction on social media and at the Nov. 4 council meeting to Nov. 1 revelations by the Free Lance of a $300,000 settlement, plus $1 million in legal fees, in 2015 of a federal retaliation lawsuit against Eckert when he was the Sioux City city manager.

A Sioux City employee had claimed she was demoted because she had filed a complaint in 2004 of several years of sexual harassment by Eckert. Repeated public comments protesting his Hollister appointment also preceded the Nov. 13 Hollister City Council executive session that resulted in his resignation and the decision to offer the $25,000 settlement.

Council members said they had been fully briefed on Eckert’s background by the search firm hired to recruit and screen city manager applicants, but acknowledged he had not been asked about the lawsuit settlement in his Hollister interview.

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