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Council Expected to Hire Montebello City Manager

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By Jorge Casuso

June 1, 2021 -- The City Council is expected to hire Montebello City Manager Rene Bobadilla as Santa Monica's new City Manager, making him the first Latino to run the city of some 93,000, The Lookout has learned.

The announcement could come as early as Wednesday evening when the Council holds a special closed session to fill the powerful post that has been held on an interim basis since April 2020 by Lane Dilg.

Bobadilla was one of five top finalists presented by Lamont Ewell, a former Santa Monica City Manager who headed the nationwide search conducted by Ralph Anderson & Associates, according to sources familiar with the process.

Traditionally, Council members strive to to cast a unanimous, or near unanimous, vote in what is widely viewed as their most important decision.

Bobadilla was hired to run the City of Montebello -- which has a population of some 62,000 -- in 2017, 15 months after he was forced to resign as City Manager of Pico Rivera, a post he held for four years, according to the Whittier Daily News.

State Sen. Bob Archuleta, who as a Pico Rivera Councilmember opposed the forced resignation, said Bobadilla "would not deviate from doing the right thing, stood by what he believed in and represented the community," according to the June 27, 2019 article.

Prior to serving as Pico Rivera city manager, Bobadilla was city manager of Huntington Park, where he served from September 2012 to June 2014. He served as city manager of El Monte from January 2010 to September 2012.

Before being hired by El Monte, Bobadilla worked as a civil engineer for Los Angeles County. A native of El Monte, he graduated from Cal Poly Pomona with a bachelor’s degree in science.

As has been the case in the past, Santa Monica's search for a City Manager has been entirely held behind closed doors, with the public only informed of the candidate chosen.

Constance Farrell, the City's spokesperson, said the community has been surveyed and met with Ewell to provide input on the kind of city manager that should be chosen.

"The process is determined by the Council in consultation with Ralph Anderson & Associates and has included a community survey and a public listening session with the community," Farrell said.

An increasing number of cities have been opening up their hiring process for city manager by revealing the names of the finalists or holding events that allow them to meet with members of the community.

In some cases, the information has been made public only after newspapers filed public information requests and threatened litigation.

Those who contend the search should be conducted behind the scenes argue that revealing the names of the finalists could jeopardize their current jobs.

That was the argument made by Corpus Christie Mayor Joe McComb after the Caller-Times exposed a clause in the search firm's contract meant to circumvent requests for the candidates' names.

"We're not trying to hide anything -- I'm really trying to protect people's (professional) lives," McComb said. "I think what we're doing is right, both ethically, legally and morally."

Those who favor an open public process argue that residents should have a say in who should run their City.

"It seems to me that it's common sense that the taxpayers should have a right to see who's applied for the city manager position, especially because the city manager oversees city government," Texas State Rep. Todd Hunter said.

Under Santa Monica's form of government, the city manager wields immense power, overseeing 14 departments and approximately 1,923 employees ("Council to Meet Again Sunday in Search for New City Manager," May 21, 2021).

Bobadilla's name began circulating in Santa Monica's inner political circles when the video for the May 23 special Council meeting was not posted online.

During public comment before the closed session, Vernon Creswell, a former Motebello fire captain who sued that City three times, urged the Council to oppose Bobadilla's hiring.

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