One and done

Interim City Manager Gus Vina does the math, heads for the door

Gus Vina certainly had one skill necessary to be city manager—he could count votes.

And in recent weeks it became clear that Sacramento’s interim city manager didn’t have the votes on the Sacramento City Council to be promoted to permanent city manager. Vina turned in his resignation last week, roughly a year after he took the interim job. His last day will be April 8.

Back in January, the Sacramento City Council voted 5-4 to continue searching for a replacement for City Manager Ray Kerridge, who left early last year, at the height of a scandal in the city’s building department and a pitched battle over Mayor Kevin Johnson’s “strong mayor” initiative.

Johnson backed Vina for the top bureaucrat gig but again found himself at odds with the majority of the council.

In fact, the divisions and supposed dysfunction of the city council have been cited in The Sacramento Bee editorial page and elsewhere as the root cause of Vina’s departure.

But Vina’s critics say it was his own decisions that cost him the job.

Some on the council were upset about an 8 percent raise he gave Police Chief Rick Braziel last year, in order to convince Braziel not to pursue the police chief job in Seattle.

Then there was the handling of the controversial “crash tax,” which has been unpopular with the public, and led to a public spat with City Attorney Eileen Teichert.

Then there was the fact the Vina recently gave raises to several department heads—he said to compensate top managers who has seen their departments slashed and who have been saddled with extra work.

The timing could not have been worse, coming right before Vina announced that the city’s budget is $35 million to $40 million in the red—again.

Vina gave his notice right before a scheduled closed-door performance evaluation with his city council bosses, set for this week.

It’s not clear what happens now. A majority of the council has to agree on Vina’s replacement—be it temporary or permanent.

Some possible candidates for the caretaker job include current Assistant City Managers John Dangberg, Patti Bisharat and Cassandra Jennings.