Modesto council says goodbye to city manager

kvaline@modbee.comMay 13, 2014 

The Modesto City Council said goodbye Tuesday to City Manager Greg Nyhoff, who is leaving after nearly six years for another job. But as council members thanked Nyhoff, they also revisited a scandal involving the city and a nonprofit housing agency.

Council members praised Nyhoff for his leadership during the Great Recession. “It’s been an honor to serve with you,” Mayor Garrad Marsh said. “You have been a great city manager. You have led us through some difficult times.”

Nyhoff thanked council members, city staff and the community for their support of him and his family. “I wish Modesto, California, the best,” he said. “It’s a beautiful place. Don’t let anyone tell you differently.”

But his last council meeting included a reminder of the city’s relationship with the Stanislaus Community Assistance Project, a Modesto nonprofit that helped house the poor and disabled. The city gave millions in federal funding several years ago to SCAP during the foreclosure crisis.

However, The Bee reported, many of those public dollars benefited SCAP managers and their families. SCAP management was ousted, and the nonprofit changed its name to Community Impact Central Valley. The agency now is merging with another nonprofit housing agency.

A Community Impact Central Valley tenant told council members that the nonprofit is raising the rents for her and other tenants to pay for maintenance costs. Gina Edwards told council members that Community Impact has a poor record of maintaining its properties and that many of its tenants cannot afford the rent increase.

Council members said they and city staff would get answers for Edwards and the other tenants. Edwards later huddled outside council chambers with several city staffers.

Nyhoff is leaving Modesto to become city manager of Oxnard in Southern California. His last day is May 30, but he is expected to be on vacation starting Thursday. He starts in Oxnard in June.

The council also authorized a contract for an interim city manager at a cost of as much as $25,750 per month. The contract is with the government consulting firm Management Partners. Jim Holgersson – a partner with the firm in its San Jose office – will serve as interim city manager. He has 35 years of experience in the public sector, including serving as city manager of Arlington, Texas, and as a deputy city manager in San Jose.

Management Partners and Holgersson will receive $24,000 a month for his services. He also will receive as much as $1,750 per month to reimburse him for commuting between San Jose and Modesto and for lodging when he stays in Modesto. Nyhoff earned $20,815 per month last year in salary and benefits.

Holgersson is expected to start today and serve six to eight months until Modesto hires a city manager.

The council also authorized a contract with the law firm Meyers, Nave, Riback, Silver & Wilson to serve as Modesto’s city attorney. Meyers Nave has been providing interim legal services since City Attorney Susana Alcala Wood resigned in November for another job.

Meyers Nave is expected to manage the city attorney’s office on a proposed budget of $2.37 million during the 2014-15 fiscal year, which starts July 1. The firm will be paid from that budget, which is slightly more than the department’s current budget. The firm’s Adam Lindgren will serve as city attorney and the firm’s Jose Sanchez will serve as assistant city attorney.

Modesto is creating a hybrid city attorney’s office by combining the resources of Meyers Nave with the remaining city staff in the office. In addition to Wood’s departure, three longtime attorneys have retired. Officials say the hybrid approach lets Modesto benefit from the institutional knowledge of its employees and the expertise of Meyers Nave, which specializes in public-sector work and has about 80 attorneys in six offices in California.

Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at kvaline@modbee.com or (209) 578-2316.

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