Milpitas City Manager Tom Williams resigned after more than a decade on the job and four months on paid leave, city officials confirmed Monday. The City Council planned to fire the 53-year-old, but he avoided arbitration by stepping down at the end of last week.
City attorney Chris Diaz announced the news after a special meeting Monday night, adding that the council authorized staff to start recruiting for a successor. Interim Police Chief Steve Pangelinan will continue serving as acting city manager until a permanent replacement is found.
Williams had been on paid leave since mid-May for allegedly spending tens of thousands of dollars in taxpayer money on personal legal fees to sue Mayor Rich Tran.
In a letter to Tran drafted this past spring by Ad Astra Law Group, Williams accused the 32-year-old mayor of age discrimination and harassment and demanded $1 million in damages from the city. When reporters tried to obtain a copy of the missive by way of a public records request, Williams had his attorney sue Metro Silicon Valley (San Jose Inside’s parent newspaper) and the Milpitas Post.
The city manager’s conduct prompted the council to launch an investigation, which wrapped up earlier this month. San Jose Inside asked to see the findings from the probe, but the city denied the request. Though Williams never actually sued Tran, his court order to block the release of personnel records to journalists still stands.
During Tran’s campaign last year up through his first few months in office, he would often criticize Williams for getting the city entangled in costly lawsuits and seven-figure settlements. As San Jose Inside initially reported in 2015, Williams’ bellicose temperament has led to rapid turnover of high-ranking staffers.
Ever since Williams threatened Tran with legal action, the mayor has abstained from all closed session discussions about the city manager. But the first-term elected official made a point in Monday’s open session to reaffirm his commitment to constituents. In a text to San Jose Inside the next day, Tran echoed that optimism.
“As long as the Milpitas Family keeps having my back, I’m going to keep pushin’ whatever the case may be,” the mayor wrote.
Other city officials reached Tuesday declined to comment on Williams’ resignation until they get the OK from Diaz. Councilman Anthony Phan posted the following message on Twitter this morning, but it’s unclear whether he’s referring to the city manager’s exit.
— Anthony J. Phan (@anthonyjphan) September 19, 2017