The Turlock City Council meeting on Tuesday night was jammed with well-wishers who applauded the new mayor and two new council members as well as the three officials they replaced.
But later in the meeting after the hoopla was over and most of the audience had left, the new council quickly and unanimously approved a request from Mayor Amy Bublak that could signal changes at City Hall.
The council voted 4-0 to take away the mayor’s authority to enter into legal agreements.
“This is all about transparency,” Bublak said in a Wednesday phone interview. She was a longtime councilwoman when she defeated incumbent Gary Soiseth and two others in the Nov. 6 mayoral election.
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Soiseth faced claims during the mayoral campaign that he was a bully who had driven away city officials and had overstepped his authority, claims he has denied.
Bublak also questioned in January the council having to approve $300,000 in legal costs in which she claimed city officials had stonewalled her request for detailed information. She also said Soiseth had signed the legal contracts. Soiseth has disputed Bublak’s characterization.
Bublak — who faced accusations from Soiseth that she ran a negative campaign — campaigned for office saying she would restore Turlock’s council-manager governance in which the City Council sets policy and the city manager carries it out.
She said on Wednesday she met with the city’s department directors to give them that message.
“I’m not here to micromanage your jobs,” she said. “I understand you report to the city manager. And as policy makers we (the City Council) have two employees: the city manager and the city attorney.”
New council members Nicole Larson and Andrew Nosrati joined Bublak in taking the oath of office at Tuesday’s meeting. The three joined Councilman Gil Esquer, who was elected to his four-year term in November 2016, on the council dais.
Audience members also applauded Soiseth and outgoing Councilmen Bill DeHart and Matthew Jacob for their service. DeHart was defeated in his re-election campaign, and Jacob did not run for re-election.
The three outgoing officials expressed their gratitude. “Thank you for one of the best experiences in my life,” said DeHart, who is 70 years old and had served on the council for eight years.
Bublak’s election as mayor has created an open council seat, which the new council decided to fill by appointing someone.
Turlock will post applications on its website — www.cityofturlock.org — for those interested in succeeding Bublak in representing Council District 4, which covers northwest Turlock. There are two years left on the four-year council term.
The city will accept applications until Jan. 7. The council is expected at its Jan. 8 meeting to set a schedule to conduct public interviews of the candidates and to make its selection at its Jan. 23 meeting.