The City of Hollister this week caught up to most other
California communities by changing its overly-safeguarded

civil service

employee status for department leaders to that of


The City of Hollister this week caught up to most other California communities by changing its overly-safeguarded “civil service” employee status for department leaders to that of “at-will.”

The City Council made the right decision – but only if the Council prevents the policy from promoting political wrangling. City Manager Dale Shaddox now has the immense power to fire department heads without cause, and that dominion must be watched over.

Department leaders make crucial decisions for taxpayers and should be held to a comparable level of accountability as the city manager, city attorney and the elected Council members.

The at-will status gives the city manager the power to fire immediate subordinates without cause or the backbreaking “progressive discipline” process required for the termination of civil service employees.

The new policy will affect only newly hired department heads, including the soon-to-be-hired police chief. And it shouldn’t quell opportunities for recruitment of future leaders because most other California cities are in the same boat.

There are seven department leaders in Hollister. Among those are positions – including the finance director, public works director and police chief – largely responsible for taxpayers’ dollars and decisions that widely affect the livelihood of Hollister’s future.

Under the civil service system, those leaders were allowed to make several critical mistakes and go through progressive stages of discipline before they were let go.

Now, if a future leader’s negligence costs the city millions of dollars, or someone shows a previously unseen and disastrous character flaw, that person can be terminated.

With that potential, officials have said the city will also include more lucrative severance packages as a safety net – in some cases up to four to six months severance pay, depending on years worked.

The idea was cultivated by former interim City Manager Ed Kreins, who was replaced two months ago by Shaddox. Kreins was surprised to learn Hollister was without the at-will status because most California cities made the change years ago. Councilman Tony LoBue then requested the Council change its policy.

The timing couldn’t be better for the switch, as budget problems continually drain the city’s General Fund reserve. And several key infrastructure projects, including a new sewer plant and new fire station, hang in the balance.

Even though the policy doesn’t affect current department leaders, it sends a clear message that Council members and Shaddox are ready to hold department heads accountable.

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


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