Milpitas Selects New Interim City Manager Who Was Fired From Previous Job in Arroyo Grande

Milpitas is still struggling to move on from the dysfunctional regime of ex-City Manager Tom Williams, who got ousted last year after getting caught misspending taxpayer money. But the City Council’s pick of new interim successor on Tuesday raises questions about its judgment. Officials on Tuesday were poised to announce a final pick out of a field of 30 applicants and a handful of finalists. But instead of making an offer to one of the strongest candidates—Julie Edmonds-Mares, a deputy city manager in San Jose who didn’t respond to Fly’s call for comment by press time—the council unanimously voted to hire someone with a checkered past for the time being. That is: Dianne Thompson, who was fired as city manager of Arroyo Grande in 2016 and will take the reigns in Milpitas from former police chief Steve Pangelinan, who has filled the post since Williams left last fall. That reportedly makes Thompson the first female city manager—interim or not—in Milpitas history. No word yet on what led to her termination after less than a year on the job in the Central Coast town. Reached earlier in the day Tuesday, Councilman Anthony Phan made no mention of Thompson and would neither confirm nor deny whether Edmonds-Mares was a final contender. “All I can say is that Julie Edmonds-Mares’ leadership is admirable and she would make a fine city manager anywhere.” Edmonds-Mares came to San Jose in 2007 after 12 years with the city of Tucson, Arizona. The veteran public servant worked her way up from acting to permanent parks ’n rec chief before being bumped up to the city manager’s team in 2015. First-term Mayor Rich Tran, who campaigned as a vocal critic of Williams, skipped the Jan. 11 panel interviews because of a National Guard assignment and wasn’t familiar with Edmonds-Mares, Thompson or the other finalists when Fly pressed for more details. He said he just wants the next top bureaucrat to be a step up from Williams, whose alleged bullying and harassment led to a pricy staff exodus and several millions of dollars in legal settlements. “Whoever it is, I just want it to be someone that truly loves the people of our city and someone who wants to be remembered in the city’s history as one of the best,” Tran told Fly on Tuesday, hours before the closed session discussion about the ongoing recruitment. “The people deserve it.” Hours later, he cast his vote for Thompson. It will be interesting to see how a city manager found undeserving of the job in Arroyo Grande will fare in Milpitas.

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14 Comments

  1. If Rich Tran wants to hire a better city manager than Tom Williams, he should be familiar with the applicants ahead of time. That quote from him is Trump-esque.

    Very curious about why Thompson was fired from Arroyo Grande. I don’t think her career in public service should be over just because she was fired, but the way that it’s described makes it sound like she was let go as a result of personality or temperament. I’m speculating; they say she was not fired for any one incident, but a “difference in style,” which seems like a nice way of saying that she did not build positive relationships. Maybe getting fired was a wake-up call for her, maybe it really was a situation unique to Arroyo Grande. But why take the risk when there are more qualified applicants?

  2. Let’s hope this is indeed an interim position and they will hire a qualified City Manager and not someone who was fired for unknown reasons from her last job. 30 finalists and they pick the only one who was fired from her previous job! Good grief!

  3. These government bureaucrats never get off the merry-go-round which just keeps spinning and spinning. Don’t like the horse you’re on? Simply move forward, backward, or sideways to a different horse. LIke playing leap frog with the gravy train always comfortably close by.

  4. I live in Cotati. Dianne Thompson was city manager there for years. It appears that she was fired there as well. One night, I saw her come out of a closed session meeting that preceded a regularly scheduled council meeting. She appeared ashen-faced and visibly shaken. A very short time later, she was gone. City council members, obviously, will neither confirm nor deny what happened, so all I can do is speculate.

    What is not a guess, though, was her draconian attitude towards local business. She and her planning commission and design review board hounded local businesses to death, down to the point of telling them how many poppy plants they could have on their patio. Probably Ms. Thompson’s biggest mistake was insisting that the city’s five-lane thoroughfare be choked down to two lanes, with two roundabouts only 600 feet apart. This led the city’s local supermarket to abandon plans for an $18 million retail complex on that street. The lot is still vacant years later. That same insistence on traffic choking also led to a special election in which citizens voted to permanently ban roundabouts within the city limits. I am proud to have played a large role in that special election. So keep your eyes, open, Milpitas.

  5. Dianne Thompson also “created” a financial crisis in Cotati in 2013-2014, which led to a one percent added on sales tax to the city in Measure G. There was no financial crisis, only bad and inaccurate bookkeeping–later corrected in audit, there was a $1 million surplus for the year. Measure G has led only to the higher pay for its 43 employees–since 2015, their pay has gone up a million dollars with the same amount of employees. Our city services have not increased as promised by Dianne Thompson and the backers of Measure G.

    Now we are stuck with a council that pretty much colluded with Dianne Thompson during those days. The city staff now were Dianne’s minions. We are heading towards bankruptcy or dis incorporation in Cotati when the seeds were laid by Dianne Thompson over many years. From those seeds, we now have a council that ignores all public input and gambles financially with our tax dollars on projects that never are completed and city staff that is horrific to the public. There are no bid contracts, commission vacancies filled without advertising to others, etc., all to protect the status quo.

    My family has lived in Cotati for 47 years. Most people rue the day Dianne Thompson showed up at our city hall. As Greg Karraker, the other poster says, keep your eyes open, Milpitas.

  6. Dianne Thompson also tried to create a financial emergency in Cotati in 2009 when I was on the city council ,when in fact our financial situation was brought about by her mismanagement of city funds, bad fiscal planning, low reserves, high city salaries, an over staffed city hall, wasteful spending, etc. I objected to all of this, as an independent conservative, and urged the city to tighten its belt and balance the budget. But she would have no part of it, and with the other high tax and spend city councilmembers instructed her to use Thompson’s office as the Recall Headquarters against George Barich. Under her inept leadership, Cotati kicked the can down the road, engaged in blatant racism dividing people by skin color, and she actually could be seen downtown on the street corner campaigning openly for the recall with the current mayor when she was supposed to be neutral. She was often found after hours with Mayor Coleman in her office out of public view. In 2011, I started an alternative city newspaper with Greg Karraker. The competing newspaper which she was proud of controlling with city funds….was proudly displayed in the entry of city hall. Whenever I dropped off a small stack of my newspaper, within minutes Thompson confiscated them from public view. Before small video cameras that could have caught her in the act of destroying newspapers, we would drop off newspapers several times a day only to have them removed. When I was on the city council, I began holding regular office hours on Monday nights. Citizens came in and complained to me that their complaints against the city were ignored by Thompson and the city council. I took the issue up with Thompson who said she was unaware of any complaints from any citizens. When I handed them to her, she walked away and they were quickly buried. I took the issue up with the city council during my early term on the city council and vowed I was not going to take a city paycheck as long as this madness continued. Thompson urged the city council that I had to be dealt with and the recall committee was organized to rid our city council of any and all political diversity. Our city continued to decline in tourism and respect from surrounding communities under Thompson’s leadership. Podcasts of our city meetings going back years were destroyed due to a lack of hard drive space. These audio recordings could easily fit on a 8 GB thumb drive. Citizens and former police officers came forward to complain about Thompson until the city council realized the damage she was doing to the town, and with their five seats securely in place with democrats, Thompson’s antics and bully tactics could no longer be tolerated. More at barich2018 dot com.

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