A contract approved by the Atherton City Council in late January to hire the town's newly resigned interim city manager John Danielson to help recruit a new manager and to advise his successor never went into effect, according to Mayor Bill Widmer.
Mr. Danielson never signed the contract, preferring to wait for a ruling from a state agency on whether he could continue working for the town and still receive his pension, Mr. Widmer said.
Now that the agency, the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) has informed the town that it may not decide for another two months, Mr. Danielson has told the town "to move on" and find someone else to recruit a new manager, the mayor said.
Under terms of the contract approved in January, Mr. Danielson was to be paid $5,000 per month for recruitment services, and $7,000 for advising Interim City Manager Theresa DellaSanta, the town's deputy city clerk who was appointed to take Mr. Danielson's place in late January.
Ms. DellaSanta said that she has called upon Mr. Danielson for information and advice since she's taken over the position, but the work has been pro bono.
Mr. Widmer said that he supports hiring a recruitment firm -- he had recommended doing so in December, when it was uncertain whether Mr. Danielson would be able to stay on as manager, but other council members opposed the idea. The point that he wants addressed, though, is the price tag.
"We've already started the (recruitment) process," he said, adding that the town has already run some ads and collected resumes. "So I'd want to negotiate with whatever firm we go with to set the fee" rather than simply agree to pay $17,000, he said.
When Mr. Danielson, a retired city manager, was hired as Atherton's interim manager in January 2011, one of his major tasks was to find his replacement.
Because he was collecting a pension from CalPERS, his tenure in Atherton was limited to a specified number of hours -- 960 per fiscal year -- and a maximum of 12 months. If he worked beyond that period, he would forfeit his pension, according to state law.
The town paid him $15,000 per month for working a maximum of about 36 hours per week.
By the end of December, the process to find a permanent manager had yet to be started, but town officials believed CalPERS would approve an extension of the contract. By mid-January, however, the state agency ruled that Mr. Danielson must resign or stop receiving his pension.
The council had allowed Mr. Danielson to remain in the town-owned house in Holbrook-Palmer Park, which traditionally houses the town's city manager. But now that he's not working for the town, "I'm going to give him a reasonable time to move out," Ms. DellaSanta said. She added that she intends to "sit down and talk with him about it" after today's meeting.
Ms. DellaSanta had never managed a city government before January, even as an assistant manager. But even though the person who was supposed to offer support if she needed it is no longer in the picture, Mayor Widmer expressed confidence that she will do just fine in her interim role.
"I think she's doing a great job," he said. "She's taking counsel from the city attorney" and staff members who manager individual departments, and "she's extremely communicative," he added.