Tom Hatch’s tenure as Costa Mesa city manager has come to an abrupt end after the City Council voted in closed session Tuesday to terminate his contract.
The 3-2 decision — with council members Katrina Foley and John Stephens opposed — was announced at the start of the council’s regular meeting.
Just before the late-afternoon closed session, Foley said Hatch “moved out of his office and turned in his badge late Friday afternoon.”
Foley, whom voters chose Nov. 6 as the city’s first directly elected mayor, said she was disappointed at such a development “on the heels of a historic election and a real positive change.”
Voters also swept a new council majority into power, meaning Hatch would have a new slate of bosses.
Hatch, a Costa Mesa resident, called in sick Tuesday, according to city spokesman Tony Dodero. City Hall was closed Monday in observance of Veterans Day.
Hatch also did not attend the council meeting. He did not return calls seeking comment.
Rumors had swirled for days that Hatch was on his way out, but council members and other officials had declined to address them publicly until Foley did just before the closed session.
“More games and chaos at City Hall,” she said.
Councilman Jim Righeimer said Tuesday night that Hatch “has been a massive asset to the city” but added that “it was clear to him, at least, that he wasn’t going to be around much longer” given the results of last week’s election.
“There’s a time when you kind of pull the bodies off the battlefield and, as far as I’m concerned, Tom’s body was pulled off the battlefield so he can go on and not be part of this issue that we have here,” Righeimer said.
Mayor Pro Tem Allan Mansoor called Hatch “a great man.” “I’m sad to see him go,” he said.
“We’re going to see a lot of changes in our city, for better or worse, and I think what you saw tonight is reflective of the atmosphere at City Hall,” Mansoor said. “And there may be more to come.”
Foley, however, said the idea that she or the newly elected council members — Manuel Chavez, Andrea Marr and Arlis Reynolds — had made any determination regarding Hatch’s future was “just a flat-out misrepresentation” and that the decision to terminate his contract “was coordinated clearly by the majority here tonight.”
Hatch is entitled to nine months’ severance pay, which he will receive by Dec. 15. Under a contract revision approved this year, his annual pay was set at $237,960.
Stephens said he felt Hatch’s fate should have been left up to the incoming council. He added that Hatch “turned in his credit card and his access card and he cleared out his office on Friday, so I think he effectively resigned.”
“I just think it was inappropriate under the circumstances to pay him that money,” Stephens said. “If he decided he didn’t want to work for the new council, then I think the appropriate thing for him to do would have been to resign.”
Hatch also worked for the cities of El Monte and West Covina.
With the council’s vote Tuesday, Hatch becomes the second area city manager to depart this year, joining Dave Kiff, his former counterpart in Newport Beach, who left at the end of August.