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Council to Meet Again Sunday in Search for New City Manager

Bob Kronovetrealty
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By Jorge Casuso

May 21, 2021 -- The City Council will meet in a special closed session for a second weekend in a row this Sunday as it seeks to fill the powerful City Manager post that will become vacant in a month.

That's when Interim City Manager Lane Dilg is scheduled to leave the position she has held for the past 13 months to relocate with her family to the Washington, D.C. area.

Dilg has informed the Council that her last possible meeting will be June 22, when the Council is scheduled to adopt its Biennial Budget, which Dilg unveiled last week at a proposed $1.3 billion ("City Manager Delivers Optimistic But Cautious Budget Message," May 12, 2021).

“New leaders of the City administration are coming at an opportune moment of transformation," Mayor Sue Himmelrich said in a statement last week, noting that the new City Manager will hire new police and fire chiefs.

The Council "looks forward to crafting Santa Monica’s future with the extremely talented City organization and engaged Santa Monica community,” Himmelrich said.

Under Santa Monica's strong City Manager form of government, whoever is tapped to fill the top post wields immense power, overseeing 14 departments and approximately 1,923 employees.

Former City Manager Lamont Ewell -- who is leading the nationwide search to fill the post -- further expanded the position's power shortly after being hired in January 2006.

Ewell successfully urged the Council to place a measure on the November ballot that stripped department heads of civil service protections and bypassed the approval of board members and commissioners.

The measure -- which was overwhelmingly approved by Santa Monica voters -- also allows the Council to fill an empty manager’s position with a temporary hire for 180 days (up from 90 days), giving ample time to find the most qualified candidate.

That could be the case if the Council is unable to choose a new City Manager before Dilg's departure.

The City has also launched a search for a new Police Chief to replace Cynthia Renaud, who unexpectedly left the post after coming under fire in the wake of the May 31 riots that rocked the city.

Former Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks has held the post on an interim basis since Renaud's departure last October.

The application deadline for Police Chief is May 24. The new City Manager will make the final selections for the new police and fire chiefs.

Under Santa Monica's form of government, the City Manager hires all department heads except for the City Attorney and City Clerk, who are hired by the Council.

It takes a "supermajority" -- five of the seven Councilmembers -- to remove a City Manager.

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