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Frank Stands By Brown's Appointment, Says Council Approval Not Required

City Manager Michael Frank noted that, as a retiree, interim appointee Bob Brown is exempt from council approval for a contract position.

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.”

Jerome J Ghigliotti Jr February 24, 2012 at 02:24 PM
"any public official who thinks that they are doing their job while ignoring the public that they are serving should be shown the door." Not when 71% of the voters do not even bother to cast a ballot. The (non-)voters get what they deserve.
Cindy February 24, 2012 at 03:46 PM
Get ready folks, your neighborhoods are going to change. Be sure to get alarm systems installed and neighborhood watch plans set up!
Reality Check February 24, 2012 at 04:06 PM
That is about the most bigoted thing said today...well done neighbor.
Reality Check February 24, 2012 at 04:10 PM
and how will this decrease your "quality of life?" Everyone here talks about how their quality of life is in the pits...and you are all putting it on the housing issue. Well how about those folks that can't afford a place to live? How about their quality of life? You all are on such a high horse it is sickening. Please re-read all of your comments. Get back to the real issues that concern the public. Quit speaking for every one because you do not. You are only the loudest.
Kevin February 24, 2012 at 04:41 PM
If you run for city council maybe you'd better learn how to spell first. Work on your sentence structure too!
Tom MacDonald February 24, 2012 at 04:46 PM
This is a classic case of double dipping the pension system. Mr. Brown will be collecting a full retirement check from his prior public job while drawing a pay check from his new public job. While the system allows this, the City should have a policy of not hiring "retirees" who are already collecting public pensions.
Mark Cwirko February 24, 2012 at 04:59 PM
I think that the majority of the citizen's of Novato made it very clear to the Novato City Council last summer that we do NOT want high density, low income housing in our town. The City Council agreed to listen to its constituents, and changed the recommendation accordingly. Hence, the City Council was re-elected this Fall. Mr. Frank is in the City Manager position, that is appointed by and reports to the City Council. He is not an elected official. He is acting on his own to make the appointment of Bob Brown. Therefore, we, the citizens of Novato, will make sure that the Novato City Council is VERY clear that our view has NOT changed. And we do NOT want an advocate of High Density, Low Income housing working for the City of Novato. We will recommend to the City Council that they either deny this appointment or remove Mr. Frank as the City Manager. See you on Tuesday night!
Pebes February 24, 2012 at 05:27 PM
RC- It's still early. The xenophobes are just getting warmed up in their battle against the new community development director. I mean, come on, the guy's name is "brown"!
News Replies February 24, 2012 at 06:43 PM
I just brought a 24/7 camera system for my home, that was in what I thought, was a safe neighborhood. Home prices will fall in slumville Novato. Our public officials are NOT representing us. We need to get out and vote. Removing City Council members and the City Manager and elect individuals who will represent us and find a new City Manager who will follow the spirit of Novato Residences.
Dave Robertson February 24, 2012 at 07:50 PM
Novato has changed for the worse in the past 10 years. It has gone from a Marin community to one of incompetence, indifference, and overall lack of concern flow freely from both elected officials and city staff. We have a government here that is out of control and who has stopped listening to it's residents a long time ago. We basically have become the laughingstock of Marin.
Dave Robertson February 24, 2012 at 07:58 PM
Novato government doesn't care one bit about housing per se - they just want the money. They are taking a town that was on the low end by Marin standards, and selling out to the state to turn this place into a "interim stop" on 101 between "real Marin" (San Rafael, Corte Madera, etc.) and Petaluma, Santa Rosa. Our property values have totally tanked and they won't go anywhere as other's recover as our government wishes only to sustain themselves, not those of us who live here.
Paul E. February 24, 2012 at 09:57 PM
If Novato is the "laughingstock of Marin," this may be partially due to the relentless selfish comments on Patch and the IJ. If I were looking to move now and read some of this stuff, I'd avoid Novato. My realtor friends have told me that they too often hear from potential buyers that they will not consider Novato because they don't like the 'tea party-like' philosophy and tactics they read in comment in the papers or hear through word of mouth. I wish those who think you are speaking for all of us would consider that you are not.
Paul E. February 24, 2012 at 10:15 PM
I wish you would stop saying "high density low income housing" like it is a disease. I have someone very close to me living in high dense subsidized housing, and it only two stories high and similar to most condos developments. And like all her neighbors, she is extremely thankful for it.
Tina McMillan February 24, 2012 at 11:31 PM
Paul E Wow. If Novato is "Tea Party" to your friends, then they must be pretty thin skinned about differing opinions. Novato has traditionally been the community of the middle and working classes in Marin. When I moved here there were many fireman and policeman living in Novato and working in San Francisco. It was where you came to raise a family. Good schools, good neighborhoods, lots of rural character with people still riding horses and keeping chickens in their backyards. I think there is a mix of political ideology out here. Whether its Tea Party or Occupy Wall Street the idea is that you should be able to exercise your freedom of speech without censorship. The IJ did not deal Novato a fair hand during last year's housing element debate. When city's like Ross can get away with declaring the Marin Art and Garden Center as land zoned for their affordable housing allotment, then you can bet folks in Novato are going to be frustrated.
Tina McMillan February 24, 2012 at 11:31 PM
Continued At Hamilton, instead of setting aside the 20% of tax increment for affordable housing the city set aside 100%. If you drive down DeLong you will see the Eden House Senior Complex being built with a $1.3 million dollar loan from the city of Novato. Hamilton has a homeless shelter, transitional housing and a training program to get people back on their feet. Even before outside developers got involved, our Rotary developed Nova Ro's in order to provide affordable housing for the elderly. We are a community of generous people with passionate beliefs and the courage to speak out. I would move here again in a heartbeat!
SamS February 24, 2012 at 11:50 PM
right on Paul E - they do make it seem like any type of affordable housing will turn into a leeper colony....you go Paul!!!!
Trish Boorstein February 25, 2012 at 12:53 AM
Having the courage to speak out in a community, no matter your position, and not feeling you have to hide behind some pseudonym, is how I would define city vibrancy. Novato doesn't receive the credit it deserves because the greater powers that be want this town to accommodate more housing, even if it bleeds our resources and protects the resources of others.
Mark Schoenbaum February 25, 2012 at 01:06 AM
Hey Bud Light! You really do hate anyone who has an opinion that does not match your own, don't ya? (Why don't you pick one moniker and stick with it?)
Mark Schoenbaum February 25, 2012 at 01:12 AM
It is amazing, isn't it? Read through any set of comments and you see that most of the attacks against other people's opinions are penned by someone hiding behind a pseudonym instead of identifying themselves. Guess they would be too embarrassed to have people know who they really are...
Bill February 25, 2012 at 04:32 AM
to Mark Sch... Blame the use of a pseudonym on Google and other search engines. Many people do not want their comments dumped into a data base and then itemized when their name is googled. It can be very revealing.
SHROYER FOR SUPERVISOR 2014 February 25, 2012 at 05:39 AM
The high density low income housing industry attacks, bullies and trys to intimidate anyone who speaks out against developers/non-profits making millions off the backs of the poor. The HDLIHI is our government's stimulus program. If this was about helping the vulnerable and poor, our government would be focusing on successful models like Habitat for Humanity or what Homeward Bound is trying to achieve for single mothers with social programs to help. Private property rights are under attack. Imagine working all your life for a home for your family and having the government rezone your property without your consent. This is also about land grabbing...follow the money it always tells the story. Our public schools (Novato is a 'low wealth school district') are getting slaughtered with budget cuts and more and more social problems and high risk children. If the HDLIHI cared about the children and the schools that their residents attended, they would donate much of their profits to the School Fuel, Novato's Public School Foundation and have tutoring for the kids. Michael Frank has hired someone who has not addressed the social programs that are needed and the financial sustainability that is unattainable with his high density agenda. But then again, Frank lacks fiscal responsibility.
RJM February 25, 2012 at 04:44 PM
Were lending $1.3 million dollars for a senior complex , getting high density , low income housing and the " Novato's district board will consider eliminating the equivalent of 33.2 positions — and laying off as many as 25 teachers — when it meets Tuesday. Officials there expect to have to cut as much as $4.2 million from the district's $64 million general fund this year. I know there isn't much you can do about the old people now , but do we really need anymore poor and or uneducated people ?
valerie hopkins February 25, 2012 at 05:07 PM
Personally, as a homeowner in Novato, I'd like to see the eradication of the racist-elite around here. They are the biggest threat to our community..
RJM February 25, 2012 at 05:46 PM
Heres a quote , which may be happening soon The late Dr. Adrian Rogers(1931 to 2005) Memphis , TN , "You cannot legislate the poor into freedom by legislating the rich out of freedom. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving. The government cannot give to anybody anything the government does not first take from somebody else. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that my dear friend is about the end of any nation."
Michael Reyff February 25, 2012 at 06:10 PM
One Frenchman by the name of Alexis De Tocqueville understood the destiny of American politics quite well back in the 1700s. In "Democracy in America" De Tocqueville predicted a "new kind of servitude" in which a "supreme power covers the surface of society with a network of small, complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate to rise above the crowd. "The will of man is not shattered but softened, bent, and guided: men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes and stupefies a people, until each nation is reduced to be nothing better than a flock of timid and industrial animals, of which the government is the shepherd." We have arriived.
Mark Schoenbaum February 25, 2012 at 11:55 PM
@bill, My point exactly - too embarrassed to be associated with what they post.
Pam Drew February 26, 2012 at 03:44 PM
I nominate Michael Reyff's De Tocqueville quote as the best quote of the decade. I nominate Valerie Hopkin's quote, "Personally, as a homeowner in Novato, I'd like to see the eradication of the racist-elite around here. They are the biggest threat to our community.." as the worst. When people advocate eradication of an elite--ANY so-called elite--in comments about the appointment of a community development co-director it signals that they have lost perspective. This phenomenon illustrates a sort of control mechanism at work to perpetuate the edicts of the Association of Bay Area Governments despite the wild inaccuracy of its jobs projections. Dick Spotswood said it best in his column in today's IJ. How about Novato hiring someone like Palo Alto's "Curtis Williams, the city's planning director, [who] highlighted a number of concerns in a report last month. Economic projections, he wrote, "appear to be substantially overstated" and the regional housing projections are too high and are "driven by unrealistic employment projections."

"The basic goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions is not well-served by overstating projections, which then require even more extensive resources and more dramatic land use and transportation changes than would be required with more realistic estimates," Williams wrote." Oh, right, Curtis Williams would have been eradicated. Quote was from Palo Alto Weekly by Gennady Shayner, http://www.marinij.com/opinion/ci_20040476.
SHROYER FOR SUPERVISOR 2014 February 26, 2012 at 08:33 PM
One of the many reasons why I love Novato and choose to raise my multi-racial children here is because it is so welcoming and diverse. Novato has been the leader in Affordable/low income housing in Marin County. Novato has 20% of the population of Marin and 33% of Marin's Affordable/low-income housing. That does not include all of Novato's Section 8 vouchers. If one checks out the city of Ross on the ABAG website you can hardly see the graph showing affordable housing, where Novato graph is very long. Perhaps we can all join together in supporting School Fuel, Novato's Public School Foundation and volunteering in our low wealth School District and help out. Back on topic: Michael Frank vision for Novato is very different from most people in Novato and that is most unfortunate. We need to have a city manager shares the vision of the residents and is fiscally responsible. Going forward we can advocate for leaders like they have in Palo Alto! They are fighting back against bogus ABAG projections!
Eleanor Sluis February 26, 2012 at 09:01 PM
Thanks to Pam and Tina for emphasizing certain criteria in the hiring of managers and consultants. The City Council has agreed to a rural/suburban designation for Novato. It has agreed to 20 units per acre for low-cost housing units. With the bonus, this means building 26-30 units per acre. By hiring Bob Brown who worked to get more units in San Rafael, the question needs to be raised then is this how the city manager feels? If the city manager is unwilling to find a qualified person who fits into Novato’s vision of a small rural/suburban town then does he need to resign? Many people resign from their jobs in government and in the private sector when their vision does not correlate with the current employers. Do Michael Frank and Bob Brown both need to look at the inconsistency of their views as differing from that of the city council and of the many neighborhood-housing groups? Thereby, will they realize that neither of them appear to be a good fit for Novato and would possibly do better working for an urban area in which their potential can be better put to use? Resignations might be a way to go.
Lloyd February 27, 2012 at 12:34 AM
I would be curious to hear how many people Mr. Frank actually interviewed and how wide a net he cast. I would also like an explanation if Mr Frank first consulted with the City Council and what if any feedback they provided. I would like Mr Frank to go beyond saying that technically he didn't need any approval and explain how he reconciled the type of development for affordable housing put forward in a recent letter to ABAG by the Council and Mr. Brown's obvious, stated opposite views to our housing element and vision of what we want for our town going forward. I am willing to hear what is said Tuesday. If it becomes obvious that Mr Frank has made an error, which many believe he did, I would hope he would take ownership and correct that mistake. If not the Council should be required to take action necessary to protect the integrity of our commitment to moving forward with a staff that is in line and capable of producing the results intended by the Council. After all the staff and City Manager work for us and our stated aims and goals.

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