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April 8, 2020

Eckert resigns as interim city manager

Hollister’s Interim City Manager Paul Eckert resigned today, Nov. 14, after just eight days on the job, according to Mayor Ignacio Velazquez.

Velazquez said Eckert delivered a resignation letter to the city late Thursday afternoon, one day before City Manager Bill Avera’s retirement and one day after a long closed-door session with the City Council.

Eckert’s interim appointment Nov. 4 had followed 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 city manager of Sioux City, Iowa.

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. Similar public comments protesting his appointment also preceded the Nov. 13 Hollister City Council executive session.

The city council held the special  Nov. 13 executive session to reconsider its Nov. 4 decision hiring the Gridley, Calif. administrator on an interim basis.

It was unclear what the council’s next steps would be, except that to be able to conduct city business, another interim city manager would likely be named Nov. 18.

Vice Mayor Marty Richman and Councilmember Honor Spencer had reportedly begun an effort to remove Eckert almost as soon as he began working at City Hall.

Velazquez said he expected the text of Eckert’s resignation letter would be released at the next city council  meeting Nov. 18.

Eckert could not be reached for comment.

Richman had proposed the surprise interim appointment of Eckert Nov. 4 “pending the study of additional documentation by the city council.” Richman had declined to discuss what might occur at the Nov. 13 meeting, except to say the council was “going to look at some more documentation” of Eckert’s work history. He declined to be more specific, except to say “there are no restrictions on what we look at.”

Eckert signed a 90-day contract as interim city manager on Nov. 6. The mayor signed it on Nov. 8. The contract included no provision for severance pay. At the time, Richman stressed that it was an “at-will” contract, which meant that the city could fire Eckert at any time.

Eckert had resigned as city administrator of Gridley, Calif., in late October after being told that the Hollister City Council had reached a consensus at an Oct. 21 closed-door executive session to offer him the job of city manager.

Eckert drove three hours south to attend the Nov. 4 council meeting in Hollister, where he expected to be welcomed in public session, only to be surprised by hearing after the closed-door council session that he would only be hired as an interim manager.

No local candidates were among six finalists interviewed by the council Oct. 1. 


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