Former City Manager Edward S. Kreins' lengthy tenure in office cast a long shadow over Beverly Hills. But this week, part of that shadow was erased.
The Beverly Hills City Council on Tuesday approved an ordinance that ensured that any city police and fire chief who serves for five years can't be fired without just cause. The action was taken to remove any political pressure on the department heads from city officials, such as Kreins, who often got personally involved in the decisions made by the city's top 20 executives that he hired while in office.
City Councilman Robert Tannenbaum, who pushed for the new law, said that he wanted to remove any hurdles that "would inhibit the effectiveness and integrity" of the two key department heads.
"This is an important step to make sure that there can never be any tampering in the way our chiefs function," he said. "It will allow us to move back to the forefront of law enforcement and enhance the professionalism of our Police and Fire departments."
Although the ordinance effectively grants the police and fire chief tenure after five years, City Manager Mark Scott said that the ordinance is basically modeled after current Civil Service laws that allow key employees to be fired only for specific reasons.
Before he was forced to retire earlier this year after 10 years as city manager, Kreins allegedly called Beverly Hills Police Chief Marvin Iannone, whom he appointed, to find out if he was under investigation for his pivotal role in the monumental Civic Center project that is years behind schedule and millions over budget. Originally estimated at $30 million, the mushrooming Civic Center job may ultimately cost as much as $120 million, according to city officials.
The new ordinance, approved by a 5-0 vote, will strengthen the positions of Iannone and Fire Chief Bill Daley, both of whom have been in their posts for more than five years. Council members said that they wanted to put an end to an "intolerable" situation for future department heads.
The strong-willed Kreins, who served as police chief for four years before taking over the city manager post, announced his retirement shortly after a payment dispute stalled construction of the Civic Center in January. He continued to work as a consultant for the city until June.
City officials said Kreins' long tenure and string of managerial appointments allowed him to hold undue sway over some of Beverly Hills' key executives. They said that calls such as the one allegedly made by Kreins to Iannone would constitute an implicit threat and could compromise the ability of an executive to carry out his duties.
"This is the kind of thing we have needed to have the kind of protection we need for our department chiefs," Beverly Hills Mayor Allan Alexander said at Tuesday night's council meeting. "This will make sure now that no pressure can by brought by the city manager or the City Council."
Councilman Bernard Hecht said he originally opposed the ordinance because he wanted the department heads to be accountable to the city manager and council no matter how long they served in office. But he said he changed his mind after talking with Iannone and Daley.
"They both assured me that they had enough confidence in their ability to do their jobs without the need of an ordinance," Hecht said. "But in this case, I'd say that this (added job security) is well deserved."