Outgoing Morro Bay City Manager Andrea Lueker
Morro Bay City Attorney Rob Schultz is praised by supporters as being a dedicated civil servant who served the city for 16 years. On Tuesday, the City Council unanimously approved his separation agreement, and prompted his resignation. He is expected to leave his post on Friday. During the same closed session period that voted on Schultz’s agreement, the City Council voted 3-2 to work with City Manager Andrea Lueker to negotiate her separation agreement, but she will continue to serve until the terms are fully negotiated.
Shortly after the vote was announced out of closed session, The ROCK received the resignation letter by Rob Schultz:
Following 16 years of service, I have resigned as City Attorney for the City of Morro Bay pursuant to a Separation Agreement approved by the City Council tonight.
It has been a privilege and an honor to have served the City of Morro Bay these past 16 years. I believe public service is the highest and most noble calling, and I am truly grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the Morro Bay community. Serving as City Attorney for Morro Bay has allowed me to be part of many historic achievements for the City.
As I reflect on the past 16 years, I am grateful for having earned the respect and appreciation of my colleagues and community. I am confident my record and many contributions to the City of Morro Bay will be the prevailing memory of my many years of service.
As I say goodbye I wish to thank the staff of the City of Morro Bay; it has been an incredible experience to work side-by-side with you for so many years. You are great public servants, doing an often thankless job, serving with dignity and professionalism. I am fortunate to have worked with such an outstanding group of individuals. I will miss you all.
But the resignation does not come without costs. Schultz earned $151,589 annually for serving as City Attorney, chief negotiator on harbor leases and head of city human resources. Though the terms of his agreement remain unclear, Schultz is expected to collect $114,000 in nine months worth of severance pay.
The expense is more reasonable than the legal services the City utilized in the past, says former City Mayor Janice Peters.
“A newcomer does not realize that Morro Bay used to contract out for attorney services and it ended up costing us more, which is why the council put someone on salary. Because of our harbor, waterfront, coastal issues and others, Morro Bay has a lot of legal work,” wrote Peters on November 10. “The [previous] council[s] felt it was better to have all the legal advice we needed when we needed it without having to worry about what it would cost to ask that question or get this information.”
Similarly, Lueker earns $152,244 annually, and she’s expected to collect $114,000 in severance pay.
Irons hired San Luis Obispo attorney Steven Simas of Simas & Associates to negotiate the separation agreement with Schultz, which was finalized on Tuesday. Irons announced that Simas, who was originally contracted for $12,500, will begin negotiations with Lueker on her separation agreement. Because additional work is required for Lueker, Irons requested the Council to approve an additional 20 hours, or $5,000, for Simas. The move drew criticism from recall proponents and dissenting councilmembers, who criticized Irons, Smukler and Johnson for approving additional interim attorneys before a permanent successor to Schultz was named.
“Our City Attorney has been protecting us a long time. There is no need to bring in interim people,” said councilmember George Leage on October 22.
San Luis Obispo-based interim attorney Anne Russell is serving as interim city attorney on a short-term basis. The Council sent out a request for proposals for an interim attorney that would serve a longer term, but have yet to initiate the same process for a new city manager. The long-term interim attorney will serve until a permanent replacement is selected. The process for finding a permanent replacement for Schultz will likely take several months.
Since proceedings began to terminate Lueker and Schultz on September 12, Council members Noah Smukler and Christine Johnson voted in support of Mayor Jamie Irons. Council members Nancy Johnson and Leage have consistently opposed any action taken against Lueker and Schultz.
Tensions on the council evolved into a contentious recall campaign against Irons by citizens who sharply criticized the mayor for alleged incompetence, abuse of power and a lack of transparency. Supporters of Irons characterized the recall as a politically opportunistic and vengeful move by former city officials who were voted out in prior elections.
Despite criticism, which included yelling, shouting and occasional boos from the raucous crowd of Schultz and Lueker supporters, Irons has refused to provide reasoning for why the Council decided to fire the city’s two top employees.
No reason is required because the two city employees are at-will. Supporters of the Council majority openly speculated about reasons for firing Schultz and Lueker, but the Council neither confirmed or denied the rumors and speculation that was brought to the lectern. Instead, they’ve stated the importance of observing employee confidentiality.
Sources close to Irons, Johnson and Smukler told The ROCK that the council majority has received threats. The council is allegedly considering additional law enforcement at future meetings.
Schultz and Lueker have declined to comment about recent developments, but they previously denied wrongdoing.