Slammed by an onslaught of universal opposition, the South Pasadena City Council on Tuesday evening withdrew plans to appoint Christopher A. Jordan as the new City Manager. The announcement came less than 24 hours before the Council was set to approve a four-year, $225,000 annual contract with Jordan and only hours after convening a special closed session to manage the fallout.
“The City Council will not consider approval of an employment agreement with Mr. Jordan,” the city said. It will instead direct its attention to vetting the background of and negotiating terms of a deal with the only other candidate the Council interviewed for the position, whom it did not name.
Jordan’s appointment crashed and burned shortly after his name appeared late last week on the agenda for Wednesday’s regular Council session. Within hours, a small army of local sleuths uncovered a litany of public records raising questions about Jordan, of whom the city said it did “a thorough background check.”
He signed separation agreements with both cities he most recently served as city manager— Los Altos, CA and West Linn, OR — each with 6-figure severance payments. He defied a Los Altos City Council vote to change the venue of its public meetings, opted not to read a 100-page report concerning allegations of racism on the part of a police chief he hired in West Linn Oregon whose actions left the city with $600,000 settlement liability, and took heat for an “aggressive management style.”
One story (“How did Chris Jordan Survive 4 Years?”) in the Palo Alto Daily Post cited the comments of Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Helen Williams who, in ruling on a case over obstacles Los Altos put in the way of a mixed-use apartment and office building opposed by Jordan’s political supporters, “was so appalled she said the city behaved in ‘bad faith’ and cited several serious law violations by Jordan’s employees” before ordering the city to issue the permit.
Although some South Pasadena Council members reportedly told constituents they were made aware of all or most of the matters raised, citizens who spoke up Tuesday said given the low level of trust city government enjoys in the wake of the unpleasant recent departures of South Pasadena’s controversial former city manager and police chief, Jordan hardly seemed an appropriate fit for city, especially since the next city manager’s first big decision will be the hiring of a new police chief.
Twenty-seven citizens, many reading from a similar script, recorded public comments ahead of the Council’s closed session, all opposing Jordan. Eight written comments were received, each against the nomination, including one signed by the President, Vice-President, Secretary and two committee chairs of Women Involved in South Pasadena Political Action. Many said they were stunned or appalled that the city would consider such a candidate.
Mathew Barbato said “Jordan checks every box against what they community asked for in the public forums” that were held by Gary Philips, the Bob Murray & Associates headhunter the city hired to recruit candidates.
Steve Zikman said he’d spoken to Council members and others and was told the recruiter referred 50 candidates, of whom “48 were duds.” If Murray can only locate two qualified candidates, “why are we using this recruiting firm?” he wanted to know.
In fact, of the 31 persons named to the community focus groups Philips met with to discover what the community was looking for in a city manager, no fewer than six were among those who voiced opposition to Jordan.
“Where there is smoke, there is fire,” former city council candidate Alan Ehrlich wrote in an email to city officials in which he identified at least nine reasons to oppose Jordan. “While I accept that not all 50 applicants may have been qualified, surely some must have been more qualified than Jordan. After all the turmoil created by Stephanie DeWolfe during her less than 3 years here, can the city really afford another 3 years of turmoil until Jordan renegotiates his next severance deal?”