Norwalk OKs Contract With Gibbs, Approves Plan to Shuffle Officials

Times Staff Writer

City Administrator Raymond Lee Gibbs is getting his way around City Hall.

The City Council on Monday approved a first-ever contract for a city administrator. It will grant Gibbs a 10% raise this year, from $57,252 to $63,120. At the same meeting, the council also approved a reorganization plan, at Gibbs' request, that juggles top city administrators.

The two decisions, approved by identical 3-1 votes, leave Gibbs firmly in control of city hall's 200 full-time employees as the 6-foot-5 Missouri native begins his second year on the job.

In an interview, Gibbs, 40, said the contract gives him a "sense of psychological and economic security" as he undertakes a number of city projects this year, among them a $2-million expansion of City Hall and its maintenance facility and the possible acquisition or lease of the vacant Excelsior High School for a community center.

Gibbs said that this month, at the request of the City Council, he also began meeting weekly with Capt. Lee Baca, commander of the Sheriff's Department's Norwalk station, in an effort to improve communication with the department and combat gang violence.

'Sink or Swim'

Of the reorganization plan, Mayor Cecil Green said, "This is Mr. Gibbs' game plan and we (the council) have gone along with it. He (Gibbs) is the one who's gonna sink or swim with it."

Both the reorganization plan and Gibbs' contract were supported by council members Peg Nelson, Lou Banas and Green, and opposed by Bob White, who made no comment to explain his position during roll-call votes. He could not be reached for comment, but according to other council members, White had said that he did not think the contract or some of the staffing changes were necessary.

Councilman Marcial (Rod) Rodriguez was absent because of the death of his mother on Monday.

The reorganization plan involves several moves, the most significant of which elevates Charles (Chuck) Rough from a staff position in the city administrator's office to assistant city administrator, where he will serve as Gibbs' top aide and run the city in Gibbs' absence. The council also approved a 10% raise for Rough, from $43,404 to $47,892.

In what the mayor termed a "lateral move," former Assistant City Administrator Richard Streng, a 27-year city employee, becomes a special assistant to the city administrator, and retains his salary of $52,788. The council also agreed to reorganize its public information office, which formerly was headed by Randy Economy, who resigned last week.

'Mirrors My Thoughts'

Gibbs said he wanted Rough as his top assistant because "he mirrors my thoughts."

"In a manager's absence, it's important to have someone who's in tune with you," Gibbs said. "That way you don't miss a beat."

Rough, 36, who was an assistant public works director with the city for six years, reorganized the department to contract some services, such as street sweeping, to private firms at a saving to the city.

As Gibbs' assistant, Rough will oversee the city's monthly newsletter and local cable access station and handle relations with state legislators and the city's lobbyist in Sacramento.

Streng, who served as acting city administrator for five months from late 1983 until Gibbs took office in February, 1984, will seek state and federal grants, audit city departments and run the city's Civil Defense program.

In the city's public information office, Gibbs said he will create a management-level position of community information officer, at a salary of up to $43,404.

Former City Editor

Economy, 24, who had earned $31,000, resigned to take a job with the Englander Group of Newport Beach. He was a former city editor of the Norwalk Herald American.

While top city officials praised Economy for his dedication and enthusiasm, Gibbs said he was looking for a "higher caliber of oversight" over the city's monthly newsletter and cable television programs. Green added that he wanted a "more sophisticated individual" to improve the city's communication with residents.

Under the reorganization plan, Lloyd Croom, formerly an assistant to Gibbs in charge of personnel, becomes director of the newly created department of personnel and human services. Croom, who also will run the city's self-insurance program, will receive a 5% pay increase, from $45,576 to $47,892.

The contract with Gibbs is for an "indefinite" period. The contract, which the mayor said was a "useful tool" because it describes in detail what is expected of Gibbs, gives the city administrator unlimited use of a city car, three weeks of paid vacation a year and severance pay of at least three months' salary, or $15,780, if he is fired.

The city did not have a contract with former city Administrator William Kraus, who resigned under fire in 1983 after 10 years in office when a city investigation found improprieties in his personal financial dealings.

Gibbs, at the council's direction, has begun meeting weekly with Capt. Baca to improve communication with the Sheriff's Department, which has been subject to occasional complaints from residents and council members. The department patrols Norwalk under a contract that will cost the city about $3.6 million this year.

"I think that any time you have a contractual relationship, you have a certain level of frustration in that you don't have all the control that you might wish," Gibbs said. "The main thing is that Capt. Baca will be more visible around City Hall than he's been in the past."

Baca could not be reached for comment.

In an effort to combat gang violence, the city added $30,000 to the original $3.6 million paid the Sheriff's Department. The extra money went for an additional deputy to patrol the city on weekend nights. The city also plans to hire a community outreach employee this year to counsel city youths in an effort to prevent them from joining gangs.

Poker Club Ordinance

On other topics, Gibbs said he did not believe that the City Council at this time will support council member Rodriguez's proposal to rescind a 1983 ordinance that permits operation of a poker club in the city. Rodriguez, concerned about legal and financial problems of poker clubs in Bell and Commerce, has said that Norwalk does not need such a club.

Plans to build the club as part of a hotel complex on the unused Wright School campus have been stymied by a lawsuit between the property owner, the Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District, and Santa Fe Springs developer Johnny Johnson.

However, a lawyer for the district, Gregory M. Bergman, said Tuesday that he is now negotiating an out-of-court settlement with Johnson that may be completed as early as next week.

Johnson, who first proposed the hotel and poker club complex, declined comment.

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