City manager spat leads to recall effort

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first_imgLANCASTER – After months of controversy and several meetings drawing standing-room-only crowds, a grass-roots group has launched a recall drive against three City Council members accused of trying to fire the city manager. Mayor Henry Hearns, Vice Mayor Andy Visokey and Councilman Ron Smith were served with recall notices at Tuesday night’s council meeting, when they were slated to discuss a buyout offer extended to City Manager Bob LaSala. “They have insisted they want to fire our city manager, and every time we turn our backs they try to have a meeting to fire him, and people keep showing up to let them know it’s not going to be that way,” said Darleen Peterson, a recall leader. Because Hearns and Visokey are up for re-election in April – less than six months from now – they are ineligible for recall, according to the city clerk. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREGame Center: Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, 10 a.m.That leaves Smith as the lone target for critics, who have launched a Web site, Asked his stance on LaSala’s future, Smith declined to comment. However, he said he welcomed a public discussion of his record. “The people of Lancaster elected me to put more cops on the street and make the city safer, to bring in tax dollars with retail and dining, and to protect their tax dollars. Those have been my main differences with Mr. LaSala,” Smith said. “I’m not going to let a handful of malcontents stop me from fulfilling my promises to the people who elected me.” And while Hearns and Visokey cannot be recalled, they defended their records on the five-member council. “For my whole life, all I’ve done is try to pull people together,” Hearns said. “I’ve done everything I can do to be a good council member, vice mayor and mayor.” They also denied they have been trying to fire LaSala, with Visokey saying he wants the $248,000-a-year executive to remain “as long as we can work as a six-member team.” LaSala, who was hired in January 2005, said he considers his relationship with the council to be “amiable, cordial and respectful.” He declined to comment on the recall effort, saying it would be “inappropriate.” The council had been scheduled Tuesday to discuss why a $3,500-a-day consultant hired “to bring clear resolution to the somewhat difficult working relationship” between the council and LaSala extended a buyout offer to the city manager. The item was tabled because City Attorney Dave McEwen was out of town. The rift developed after a clash in January between LaSala and Frank Visco, the former chairman of the state Republican Party and a powerful developer in the Antelope Valley. Visco and his business partner, former City Manager Jim Gilley, have proposed building Amargosa Creek, a 150-acre retail and office project that would also include a hospital. After Visco complained that LaSala was taking too long to get the project approved, the City Council voted to prohibit the city manager from negotiating with other Amargosa developers. That task was reassigned to the city attorney and a consultant. “We did feel like that should be pushed faster,” Hearns said. “That’s why we want to use the city attorney to push faster and bring it back to Mr. LaSala. We are not leaving him out of the picture.” [email protected] (661) 476-4586 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img

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