City Council “Conveniently Terminates” Their City Manager

It’s musical chairs again at City Hall in San Fernando. In a special closed session meeting held on Tuesday, Feb. 12, the council took action to terminate City Manager Alex Meyerhoff, the city’s highest ranking administrator.

Following the closed door session, the council provided the following statement:

“By a vote of 3-0 (Lopez and Pacheco absent), the City Council moved to terminate City Manager Alex Meyerhoff’s employment for convenience and without cause. By a vote of 3-0 (Lopez and Pacheco absent), the City Council moved to appoint Nick Kimball as Interim City Manager.” 

So what is a firing for “convenience,” anyway? Apparently termination for convenience clauses are common in government contracts. It allows for the city to unilaterally fire their contractor at any time with or without giving any reason. (The contractor is generally entitled to a negotiated settlement for an equitable recovery of costs and losses incurred.)

So, while little is being said about why Meyerhoff was terminated, ironically he was generally viewed as a “nice guy,” who brought in donuts and wanted everyone to get along; but maybe that style of management would be a better fit for the public relations position that the City has always needed.

Wanting to get along with everyone apparently didn’t work for Meyerhoff in this job where you have to help to lead the City Council, take a position when guiding them and at times ruffle some feathers to produce and take a project over the finish line.

For an outsider, the City of San Fernando may look like a small and easy spot to come to work or hang your shingle. That’s always the initial impression.

But as Meyerhoff and others before him have learned, “it ain’t so easy.” Always wrestling with a limited budget, entrenched employees resisting change, those set in doing their jobs the same way, along with the push and pull and controversy on whether to grow or not to grow the city.

It can be a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” kind of ride. And too often getting in the way of the job can be a steady pile of City Hall and small town gossip, and toxic rumors that can swallow up precious time that you have to sidestep.

Getting residents other than the same cast of characters to be engaged and involved is also a challenge.

So now, Kimball will sit in the big chair. Kimball, the deputy city manager and finance director, served as interim city manager in 2017 when a search was underway to fill the position. He was asked if he was interested in the position but he passed.

City managers for small cities have a tendency to move from one spot to the next, and really small towns like San Fernando can’t offer the same competitive salaries that larger cities can, forcing them to hire from a pool of candidates who may have had some bumps in their career or taken a chance on those with very little experience.

San Fernando has had a hard time keeping someone in the position and has a history of poor hires, including one who robbed Peter to pay Paul and took the city deeply into the red.

The City has been working steadily to climb out of the hole and has needed a strong city manager who can not only juggle, but one who can take charge and enterprise.

The city has a long list of issues that are currently on the table that can determine its future: Whether you support marijuana businesses coming to town, whether you support the changing of the street name Maclay Avenue, whether you want improvements to the mall, whether you want the city to develop and bring businesses that can make the city a “destination,” or whether you want San Fernando to remain the same as a long time neighborhood. It now may be back to the drawing board on these discussions.

So, this firing for “convenience” is really very inconvenient at a time when San Fernando is at a crossroads. Yet, another search begins — As The City Turns…