As opposing camps on the Santa Ana City Council continue a tug-of-war over filling two top executive vacancies, the city’s leadership – and future – remain uncertain.
In just over three months, Orange County’s second-largest city has seen its city manager and police chief, under pressure over a spike in shootings, leave.
The divided council vote occurred four days after Police Chief Carlos Rojas announced his resignation from the police department come June, and that he had reached an employment agreement with another organization. A Santa Ana policeman for 27 years, Rojas will be top cop at Bay Area Rapid Transit in Northern California.
With city budget balancing and labor negotiations around the corner, council members have differing views on whom to place in the city manager and police chief positions, both interim and permanent, and how to go about it.
“I believe that if we would have continued in the manner that we were going before, we could have created more instability, because there wasn’t confidence that politics was not meddling in the decision-making of our city,” said Sal Tinajero, who along with fellow council members David Benavides and Vince Sarmiento and Mayor Pro Tem Michele Martinez voted to remove Mouet.
Tinajero said he believes the interim job for city manager, who holds the authority to hire a police chief, should be filled first, with a retired city manager or someone “who doesn’t have anything to lose and therefore can do what’s in the best interest of the city.”
Council members on Monday directed staff to seek candidates for acting city manager for consideration at a special meeting May 1.
Tinajero said the rumor circulating is that the Santa Ana Police Officers Association, which criticized Rojas, has David Valentin, one of three deputy chiefs, as the preferred candidate for acting police chief. As with the acting city manager vacancy, Tinajero stressed the need to find someone unbiased.
“I don’t know (Valentin) very well, but certainly a big concern of the council is how much influence is the council going to allow the police officers association to have in running our city,” Tinajero said.
Police union President Gerry Serrano said in an email that there are three qualified deputy chiefs at the police department.
“I trust the city manager will select the most qualified that has a genuine concern for our community and the skill set to implement a problem and community oriented policing philosophy to address the serious public safety needs of our community,” Serrano wrote.
Besides Valentin, who runs the field operations bureau with a…