Yes, 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 Act.

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 making.

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 yourself:

Which one has been the biggest problem maker?

It is not Mayor Jim Price.


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