Tom Williams Resigns as Milpitas City Manager to Avoid Arbitration

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.

Jennifer Wadsworth is the former news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.


  1. I attended several Council Meetings in Milpitas. My God what unprofessional bunch they are. Thank God that I’ve never seen anything like them!

  2. So Tom finally bailed out, leaving years of wreckage behind. Today, we just learned that his Director of Public Works and Assistant City Manager, Nina Hawk is bailing too. Nina Hawk is ducking out at the the Golden Spigot as the new Chief Operating Officer for Water Enterprise. That is #2 position behind the new CEO Norma Camacho. Descent professionals with years of experience passed over at the water board in the name of hollow diversity program being pushed by some old farts on the board of directors. This is the same lady that orchestrated a lawsuit against the City of San Jose with phony allegations about lack of transparency and bungled billing. I guess she couldn’t stand the whiff from the san jose landfill in Milpitas anymore. And City of Santa Clara did not want her back. The Water Board, after protracted nationwide search settled for a neophyte with no experience in complex water problems in california. Sham recruitment. We will be watching how much longer the board split vote will be on Nina’s side. Good luck.

  3. Nina Hawk is a nobody with limited professional qualifications before she came to Milpitas. It was definitely a sham recruitment when Tom Williams hired her as public works director and later installed her as assistant city manager. It’s incredible how fast she has been able to claim the salary ladder. I want to know the dirty secret ties between Tom Williams and Nina Hawk!

  4. Well,it looks like old Tommy boy decided to pack his bags and get out of dodge while he still has his trousers to hold up.As for his sidekick referring to Nina Hawk,everyone knows who she is.The one who claims that she can do anything by the way she talks.A huge mistake you made Tommy boy when you hired her as the public works director.Employees getting passed over for positions who were highly qualified and filling them with not qualified people.Another bad habit of hers was to create special assignment positions with those of her choice of course and for some reason,those positions would eventually become permanent.Who ever the city decides to hire as the next director of public works, make sure the person has experience and strong leadership skills because obviously she had neither to bring with her from Santa Clara.One will always wonder how she ever landed this job.

  5. Enough is enough, Even us blue-collar workers at the yard can see through this. Apparently the old Klan from our past is trying to make another run for power. Deflecting the article about resignation in a strange direction, to confuse those who do not know the truth.
    When Nina came to us with her news about accepting another opportunity……..we were crushed and didn’t want her to leave. We had not experienced a leader like her before.
    She cared for us, and Milpitas in a way we had never seen before.
    God Bless,
    We wish you the best!
    You deserve it.

  6. Nina has never responded to any complaints or emails from the public unless the mayor’s office emails here. She’s unprofessional. However she’s still around working for the city. When is her last day ? I want to celebrate

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