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Long Beach to name new interim city manager

Long Beach Corporation Counsel Rob Agostisi is expected

Long Beach Corporation Counsel Rob Agostisi is expected to be appointed acting city manager. Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

The Long Beach City Council is expected to vote to appoint Corporation Counsel Rob Agostisi as its next acting city manager during a special meeting Wednesday, officials said Monday.

Agostisi, 43, of Dix Hills, would serve indefinitely and without a contract to shepherd the city through its next budget talks and council election. He does not have a residence in Long Beach, which is required within 90 days of a permanent city manager taking office.

He said he would consider a permanent role at the end of the year after the city council evaluates his performance. He has worked in the city attorney’s office since 2006.

“My primary goal is to ensure that the City is run in an efficient and effective manner, carrying out the City Council’s vision of helping Long Beach reach its full potential as the shining City by the Sea,” Agostisi said in a statement.

Agostisi said he will receive a $20,000 raise to take the city manager position,  earning a $176,000 annual salary. He will relinquish his pay as corporation counsel but will remain active in major cases, such as the $100 million iStar lawsuit over the Superblock proposal and a potential $50 million damages trial over the oceanfront Sinclair-Haberman property.

The city has gone without a permanent city manager for more than a year since Jack Schnirman was elected Nassau County comptroller in January 2018. Police Commissioner Michael Tangney has served as acting city manager ever since. Tangney will remain police commissioner.

Long Beach city officials have been unable to attract candidates to take the role permanently and recently considered hiring a municipal search firm, council members said. The city is grappling with a fiscal crisis after years of unbalanced budgets and has been unable to fill its vacant comptroller position.

The City Council scrapped plans in July to appoint Agostisi to city manager after State Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) criticized the scheduling of a special meeting with little notice. Council members said talks resumed this month for Agostisi to assume the role. 

Four of the five Long Beach City Council members said in a statement they supported Agostisi for acting city manager.

"Given the many challenges the city faces, we need someone with significant institutional knowledge to ensure stability and continuity," city Councilwoman Anissa D. Moore said. "His post-Sandy work, which continues to this day in the form of resiliency projects, has been exemplary and is integral to the City's future.”

Councilman John Bendo said he was not aware of the meeting until he was contacted by reporters Monday morning. 

“It is extremely disappointing and troubling that I had to find out about such an important meeting and vote through the press.  This is not how a functioning city council should work,” he said.

Bendo has been opposed to Agostisi's appointment and called for an independent investigation of separation payments by the city to current and former employees before voting on any city manager. 

Agostisi received a $128,457 payout in December 2017 for accrued time when he announced plans to leave for a job with the Town of Hempstead. Agostisi was persuaded to stay with an offer of a $25,000 raise, which was later returned. He attempted to return the payout, too, but was told it had already been reported as income by the city for taxes.  

Bendo said that the city could seek a contract for less than $20,000 to hire a municipal search firm. The contract has not been issued and is awaiting council feedback and review by the city manager’s office, officials said.

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