Department head resigns from post

BURBANK — Bob Torrez stepped down as head of the city’s finance department April 4 to take a job closer to his Long Beach home, officials said.

In a memorandum released to executive officials last week, City Manager Mary Alvord announced Torrez’s decision, saying his resignation was effective immediately.

“He’d been looking for a position closer to his house,” she said. “Executives don’t have to give two-weeks’ notice. They are a whole different animal. They are what we call exempt.”

Hired on April 17, 2006, Torrez’s resignation comes at a time that might be the most demanding for the Financial Services Department, said Justin Hess, who has taken over as interim director, and added that he was surprised by the move.

“He came in on Friday and walked into my office. He said, ‘It’s been nice working with you.’ He packed up his stuff and left. It’s been a whirlwind, crazy last few days.

“It’s not a good time.”

Burbank’s budget is set to be approved by the City Council on June 17, but wrangling by departments seeking to increase their share of the fiscal pie, and the May 3 council goal-setting workshop, where council members will lay out their aims for the year, could make the path to June 17 rocky, he said.

The departmental budget process will begin to take shape on May 13 as the Police, Information Technology, Financial Services and Community Development departments are all set to conduct a budget study session. Those will be followed by more departmental sessions with the offices of the city attorney, city manager and the council on May 20 and a final study session with Burbank Water and Power and the Public Works Department on May 27. A proposed budget public hearing is set for June 10 with adoption scheduled by the council the following week.

But preparations and pie charts are already being prepared, Hess said.

“Right now is when all the work is being done,” he said. “April is a lot busier than May.”

To that end, Hess has been saddled by at least 10-hour office days as he tries to keep operations running as smoothly as possible.

Hess has worked in the city nearly 10 years, first as an official in the Community Development Department, then in the city manager’s office until he joined the Finance Department five years ago.

The circumstances behind Torrez’s resignation were not entirely clear, but officials stopped short of calling his exit an out-of-the-ordinary one.

“These things happen at the executive level from time to time,” Management Services Director Judie Sarquiz said. “There have been some executives who served for a short while.”

Most notably, she said, was Walt Bratton, the former director of the Parks Department who was on the job for only three months when he was let go in 2005.

The city agreed to pay Bratton $17,000 after he filed a $250,000 wrongful-termination suit.

Court documents at the time said Bratton was “terminated from his job as director of the Parks and Recreation Department in breach of public policy after he sought to implement the city of Burbank’s administrative policies.”

City officials have no intention to hire a replacement for Torrez, preferring to concentrate on the budget negotiations instead of the tumult associated with hiring a new executive, Hess said.

“We’re not looking for anybody right now,” he said. “We’re just trying to get through the next couple of months.”


 JEREMY OBERSTEIN covers City Hall and public safety. He may be reached at (818) 637-3242 or by e-mail at jeremy.oberstein@ latimes.com.

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