I just read the August 11 - 18, 2005, issue of the Santa Maria SUN newspaper. News Editor Andrea Rooks did a good job of summing up the criticisms of the 2004 - 2005 Santa Barbara County Grand Jury against Santa Maria's city manager, Tim Ness, and our City Council, and their responses.
As Rooks notes, after "20 interviews, 15 subpoenas for sworn testimony and three subpoenas for personnel documents," the Grand Jury found, among other things, that the "City Council is not exercising sufficient oversight of the city manager."
On July 19th, the Santa Maria Times stated that the Grand Jury believed the City Council needed to "oversee the city manager's office more closely to prevent too much power from being concentrated there."
Then on July 29th, Dan Milstein, deputy executive director of the Santa Barbara County Action Network, joined in with his commentary in the Santa Maria Times. He stated, "Even though the City Council was charged with giving too much power and too little oversight to the city manager, the Council let the city manager write the City Council's reply to those charges."
Milstein goes on to say, "To the city's credit, it has accepted the Grand Jury's recommendation that the city manager submit to an annual written performance review . . . . " However, he asks the question: ". . . will the City Council write the evaluation themselves or will this task also be delegated to the city manager?"
And then, of course, there's that Santa Maria Times letter to the editor on July 25th from Audrey Mussell. She says, "Word is, once you've made Ness' 'hit list', it's just a matter of time before you are added to the casualty list."
I wonder what forced-to-retire former Police Chief John Sterling would have to say about Ness having too much power and his "hit list"?
Finishing her piece in last week's SUN, Rooks also interviewed Santa Barbara City Administrator James Armstrong. Armstrong says, " . . . the city manager serves at the pleasure of the City Council . . . . You have to keep the majority of the City Council happy."
Ness must be doing that, because he's still city manager.
But then, when Rooks spoke with King Harris, managing editor of San Luis Obispo's New Times newspaper, he noted that Santa Maria's City Council "doesn't have the balls that the City Council here does."
No balls. Could this be why Tim Ness is allowed to have a hit list?
One Tin Soldier