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‘Chaos’ as Riverside mayor attempts to veto city manager contract

By in Press Enterprise on February 7, 2018

By Ryan Hagen File photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNGRiverside City Manager John Russo. File photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG

Riverside Mayor Rusty Bailey ended the City Council meeting Tuesday, Feb. 6, by issuing the first veto in 24 years to prevent a new contract for City Manager John Russo — or at least he tried to.

Russo got 5-2 City Council approval for a new seven-year contract that the top administrator said was necessary to stop top staff from fleeing perceived instability. Councilmen Chuck Conder and Jim Perry voted no.

Hours later, immediately before declaring the meeting adjourned, Bailey announced that he was vetoing the decision.

Bailey, who said he would send his veto message Wednesday, said the city shouldn’t increase Russo’s pay at the same time cuts to city services are on the table.

City Attorney Gary Geuss insisted Bailey didn’t have power over “charter officers” — the city manager, city attorney and city clerk.

“With all due respect to the mayor, there is no authority under the charter for a veto of a charter officer contract,” Geuss said. … “That is the opinion of your only legal representative here. The mayor’s recourse is to take a writ on this matter and go up to Superior Court and challenge this if that’s what he deems appropriate.”

Legal dispute

Riverside’s city charter gives the mayor power to veto “any formal action taken by vote of the City Council including any ordinance or resolution, except an emergency ordinance, the annual budget or an ordinance proposed by initiative petition.” The mayor then has 20 days to provide a written veto message, after which the City Council can override the veto with five affirmative votes.

Geuss, though, pointed to the charter section detailing the city manager’s powers, which states “the City Manager shall serve at the pleasure of the City Council.”

In December, […]    

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