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Long Beach renews city manager contract despite challenge

Jack Schnirman, city manager of Long Beach, at

Jack Schnirman, city manager of Long Beach, at a news conference on Sept. 9, 2014. Credit: Barry Sloan

Long Beach City Council members voted to extend City Manager Jack Schnirman’s contract another two years after a heated meeting about allegations against the deputy city manager.

Council members voted 3-1 to extend Schnirman’s $173,871 annual contract, with Councilwoman Anissa Moore dissenting and Councilwoman Eileen Goggin absent.

Schnirman’s performance during his four-year tenure was universally lauded by residents and council members, including Moore. They cited his leadership in the city’s financial recovery from the brink of bankruptcy and rebuilding after superstorm Sandy.

“I would like to say over the last four years, we’ve been through an incredible amount together,” Schnirman said. “We’ve made some hard choices and progress together.”

But Moore and several residents asked that the vote not be held after Moore made allegations of harassment, racism and sexism by Deputy City Manager Michael Robinson. Her motion failed when she didn’t receive a second vote.

Moore said she overheard Robinson mocking her request to meet with the city manager at City Hall last week. She also said he printed her text messages agreeing to a local Democratic campaign fundraiser that she had later denied.

Moore took office in January as the city’s first black council member. She said Robinson, who is white, was opposed to her position on the council and was trying to undermine her tenure, in a culture that bred racism, sexism and nepotism.

“The deputy city manager felt empowered to do so because of the present toxic environment,” Moore said. “We need to understand that sexism is a system, it’s not a person. Racism is not a person, it is a system. I call on the city manager to make a pledge that we act immediately and terminate his services immediately.”

City officials said they cannot comment on personnel matters.

Robinson issued a statement saying “I wholeheartedly disagree with the councilwoman’s allegations as they pertain to me.”

Moore called for a review of the city manager’s office by the city’s ethics board. She also asked that the vote on Schnirman’s contract be postponed until at least April 5, saying she was not briefed on the history of the contract and Schnirman’s initial vetting process four years ago.

Schnirman’s contract expired in February and was delayed so the five council members could revise the terms to set performance goals and severance language. Schnirman could receive up to six months’ severance if terminated early and no severance if he is fired for cause or if he leaves early.

“The only way I see it, is this contract is vital in removing party politics,” City Councilman Anthony Eramo said. “The only way for him to do his job is to separate him from politics.”

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