Last week the City of Novato announced the to replace out-going Development Director . Ann Moore was named as interim general plan manager, and Bob Brown as interim community development director.
The announcement, particularly of Brown - former - has sparked many comments and letters to editor , most of them in opposition to Brown’s appointment. An , published earlier today, said Brown was an “activist” who might “therefore [be] unwilling to explore options that veer from his stated beliefs.”
, a member of , also questioned whether Brown could remain neutral in executing his duties, even as he shares the position with Moore. An extended quote follows:
"… both employees will have to wear both hats in order that one planner or the other can cover the city's needs during business hours. In view of Bob Brown’s biases and his own agenda to apply San Rafael’s planning principles in Novato, in his collaboration with Ms. Moore, would he be able to maintain the agreed upon Housing Group recommendations and Council's approved Housing Element of 20 units per acre if he works for the City of Novato?"
In response to a call to City Hall, – currently on vacation -- contacted Novato Patch to discuss the appointments. He made note of the fact that while Anne Moore’s appointment did need to be approved by the city council at their next meeting (Tuesday, Feb. 28, 6:30 p.m.), Bob Brown’s appointment did not.
“Anne Moore is not a retiree,” he said. “She has her own consulting business and worked lots of places. So I need to take her contract, because it exceeds my contracting authority, to the council to get approved. So that’s going to council on Tuesday.
“The other position I’m hiring is Bob Brown, who is a retiree. PIRS [or Cal-CPIRS, the California Public Employees Retirement System] at first told us, when you hire someone who’s a retiree who is in the PIRS system, you need to get council approval. But then we went back to them for what the resoltuion should look like, and they said we didn't need council approval."
To clarify the differing opinions from Cal-PIRS -- a not-unusual occurrence, Frank said -- his offices contacted a higher manager at the state organization for a final decision, and they agreed that no council approval was needed.
"It’s not a contract [as] we’re going to hire him as a temporary employee,” Frank said. "So I'll be making that appointment myself." He also said that he expects both Brown and Moore will be one-year appointments.
“That’s being said,” he added, “the public is welcome to speak at public comment time on whatever they want to comment on.” Public comments are generally allowed at the beginning of City Council meetings.
“I was not looking to hire Bob Brown,” Frank said firmly. “I went through a full-on recruitment process and after interviewing the candidates, and I had a panel, he ended up on top as the most qualified person – for what we need done in our city, in that department at this point in time.”
As Boorstein and other commenters have noted, however, there is some feeling that Brown has a personal agenda or take on the issues that might affect his ability to perform. Frank was quick to address those concerns.
“Bob Brown is a professional,” he said. “His job when he’s a professional is [to] implement council policy, number one. But number two, in this case I don’t have him working on anything to do with the general plan … aside from implementing it.”
Frank went on to address the issue of splitting up the now-vacated Community Development position. “The housing issues are such hot issues in the community, that’s exactly why I broke up the position. I didn’t want to try and hire a full time community development director, who you want to stay in your community for a long period of time… [who will be] raked over the coals as a result of what’s going on with our general plan process.”
As of this point, the original article on Brown’s co-appointment with Moore has generated 15 comments, and Tina McMillan’s opinion piece has begun to generate comment as well. If it becomes too much an issue, I asked Frank, is it possible he would reconsider?
“I always have an open mind,” he responded, “but the chances of me reconsidering -- unless there was information that I did not consider when making the appointment, it would be unlikely that I would make a different decision.”
As far as a possible highly vocal opposition to Brown at Tuesday night’s council meeting? “I understand, we’re used to that.”