Bob Brown received a rock-hard vote of confidence from local government leaders Tuesday night in light of some opposition to his recent appointment as the city of Novato's new community development director.
Members of the Novato City Council were unanimous in their support of City Manager Michael Frank naming Brown to the post after Brown served 10 months in an interim role. The vacancy was created by the 2012 retirement of David Wallace.
Mayor Pat Eklund addressed the matter after a few members of the public, mostly notably Al Dugan and Trish Boorstein, spoke during open time at Tuesday's council meeting, essentially calling Brown an advocate for high-density housing. At one point, Frank and Brown were called "the enemy."
For about 2 1/2 years, Novato has undergone a very public rift about forced planning for future housing developments; hundreds of residents have joined grassroots groups against low-income, high-density housing over concerns about potential crime increases and potential decreases in property values. It's a touchy issue to say the least.
Frank made the decision to hire Brown, who has more than 30 years of community development experience with public agencies and retired in 2011 as community developement director in San Rafael. Frank's move last week was met with some opposition, but Frank stood by his choice Tuesday and reiterated that the decision was not made without careful consideration and solid input from others.
"I do expect the community to hold council accountable, to hold me accountable and our department heads accountable," Frank said. "I'm accountable to the council — they're my bosses. ... I can assure those in the community that it's not our role as staff to advocate. Bob and I have had conversations about this as far to take positions that are in opposition to what council advocates. I would be very surprised if that were to occur."
The council members clearly stated their support of the personnel move and their support of the council being accountable for staff member's actions.
Councilwoman Jeanne MacLeamy said she has found Brown to be a "true professional" who has found creative ways to solve problems and make improvements during his interim stint.
Addressing the public opposition to Frank's appointment of Brown, MacLeamy said, "Obviously there is a level of trust that is missing, and we have to earn that trust. We hope you gain trust in us. Truly, Michael and Bob are not the enemy."
Council members Eric Lucan, Madeline Kellner and Denise Athas also took a minute to support Brown.
"We don't have rogue employees roving out there doing their own thing," Lucan said.