The City Council was to meet in special sessions — one closed, one open — this past Wednesday, Sept. 11, to discuss, among other items, future use of surplus Caltrans properties now that the 710 Freeway tunnel appears dead.
Council members also held what was called a routine evaluation of City Manager Stephanie DeWolfe.
Both sessions were considered “special” only because they were held outside the established meeting schedule. Regular City Council meetings occur on the first and third Wednesdays of each month, and the regular Sept. 4 meeting was canceled.
The DeWolfe item was the first of five confidential items to be discussed during closed session.
Three other topics concerned litigation, while the last dealt with negotiations related to the surplus Caltrans properties within the SR-710 corridor in South Pasadena. These sites are no longer needed by Caltrans, with the proposed SR-710 North extension now sll but defunct. That topic was also to be discussed in the open session that followed the closed meeting.
Prior to the Sept. 11 performance evaluation of the city manager, the council had conducted three others of her this year. In 2018, the council undertook such evaluations during five closed sessions between February and December.
To some, the number of evaluations may seem excessive since the provisions of standard city manager contracts call for annual assessments only, according to a city manager of a nearby city.
The Review asked Mayor Marina Khubesrian if there was a reason the city manager’s evaluation was scheduled now.
Khubesrian replied by phone, “It’s just a routine, every six months-type of a routine situation.”
Public Information Officer John Pope responded to the same question by email prior to the meeting. “The item you are referring to is a closed-session personnel matter,” he said, “so we cannot discuss it prior to the closed session.”
“If there is any action taken during the closed session,” he added, “the city attorney will report it during the open session.” No action had been reported to date following the 2018 and 2019 evaluations.
“I can say,” Pope continued, “that it is not uncommon for city councils to revisit a city manager’s performance more frequently than once a year, for example if they are considering a raise, contract extension or any other amendments to a city manager’s contract.”
Again, he said, he could not comment on this particular closed session, “but it is by no means a rare or unusual occurrence in city government.”
The open meeting that was scheduled to follow Wednesday’s closed session consisted of only one item. Opportunities to use a state program for SR-710 surplus properties to create affordable housing were to be discussed, according to meeting agenda.