LIVINGSTON -- During a special meeting Wednesday evening, the City Council met to conduct a labor negotiation with City Manager Richard Warne during closed session.
Members of the public were concerned that Warne might be let go for political reasons, but the results from the closed session led to no reportable action.
It would take four votes from the council to fire Warne, according to his contract with the city. With the recent changes on the council, those four votes are much more realistic than with the previous council.
A few people made public comments, some in support of Warne and some against him. The audience was abnormally small and quiet for a Livingston City Council meeting.
The first to speak was Donna Kenney, community development director. The statements she prepared surprised Warne.
She expressed her gratitude to be able to work under Warne and encouraged the council to consider what he's brought to the city.
"I thought it's important for you to know how a staff member perceives his work," she said. "If you step back and remove all the emotion and politics associated right now with the city, you can see that, from a business perspective, City Manager Richard Warne has done an outstanding job for Livingston."
Kenney pointed out that Warne has worked under many mayors with varying political views, including Brandon Friesen, Gurpal Samra and Daniel Varela Sr. "I believe he will do equally well transitioning City Hall into an Espinoza administration," she added.
All the staff agrees that Warne has an aggressive managerial style that accomplishes goals the council sets, Kenney said. Variables come with the position, but his record shows his perseverance.
"How hard of a job is that?" Kenney asked. "To not only have five bosses, but to have those five bosses and the dynamics of the council change every two years?"
Because her three allotted minutes ended, Katherine Schell-Rodriguez, a political enthusiast, finished reading Kenney's letter.
By working with the city engineer, Warne has helped bring in more than $4.5 million in grants for sidewalks, waterline replacements and alley and street paving, Schell-Rodriguez read.
Other items from a long list of accomplishments include helping with the development of a skate park, $1.6 million in grants for first-time homebuyers and housing rehabilitation, three new parks and the rapidly expanding Livingston Sports Complex, she read.
"Every budget he's worked on has received an award," Schell-Rodriguez read.
Warne said he couldn't comment on what went on during closed session, but was thankful for the backing.
"I do appreciate the words of support from all the employees and members of the community," he said. "The support from the city employees has been absolutely overwhelming."
While most speakers supported Warne, not everyone in the room sided with him.
Mario Mendoza, another political enthusiast who frequents council meetings, has criticized Warne many times for his decisions and didn't relent Wednesday, saying the city should have never been put in the position it's in now.
No members of the council returned phone calls from the Sun-Star.
Reporter Mike North can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.