Sun-Star, Atwater’s Council Is ‘Toxic,’
But It’s Not Mayor’s Doing
By JOHN M. DERBY
April 26, 2018
Last week’s editorial in the Merced
Sun-Star telling Atwater Mayor Jim Price to quit for the
betterment of the city shows that their editorial board
apparently does not understand the complete history of what’s
going on, or is choosing to ignore it.
Mayor Jim Price was not one of the three
Council members who met with future city manager pick Art
de Werk a year and a half ago in a local restaurant in what
more than a few observers viewed as a violation of the Brown
Mayor Jim Price did not team up against
Scott McBride who would have been the best choice as the
new city manager for Atwater (as the Times pointed out at
the time). It’s no surprise that McBride is considered
a “heavy hitter” at Merced’s City Hall
in his position as director of Development Services.
Mayor Jim Price was not the one who —
after only 11 days in office — put a respected police
chief on administrative leave, without giving reasons to
the City Council, and then after all this time, has yet
to show sufficient evidence for such action.
Jim Price was not the one who went out
to find a replacement for the city attorney even before
the attorney gave notice of leaving. He was not among the
City Council members who actually talked to the new hire
before a 3-2 vote to approve the contract.
It was, however, Jim Price who demanded
a background check on interim City Manager De Werk, and
it was Jim Price who accepted De Werk’s resignation
after a meeting of the Council in closed session.
We are not saying Mayor Jim Price is perfect.
He made a mistake in allowing an email with heated words
to be picked up by De Werk, and for that the city is having
to pay, according to reports.
Nevertheless, the City of Atwater is having
to pay for a lot of decisions which are not of the mayor’s
The city is paying for two police chiefs,
and the additional cost of investigating the Police Department,
along with other legal matters. The city under De Werk also
created two deputy city manager positions, when it could
hardly afford one city manager.
The City of Atwater was slowly digging
itself out of debt under the leadership of Frank Pietro,
who was holding down the positions of police chief and city
manager — and doing a damn good job considering the
circumstances. He retired in December of 2016.
In turn, Major Jim Price was leading the
Atwater City Council, and then suddenly, the pendulum swung,
and today he faces a difficult situation created by three
other council members who are determined to vote against
any ideas he has for running the city.
Our suggestion is to take a good, long
look at those three members of the City Council, and ask
Which one has been the biggest problem
It is not Mayor Jim Price.