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City shakeup

Posted Feb. 26, 2015 at 7:28 AM

ADELANTO — During a marathon meeting in front of a packed house, the City Council on Wednesday approved the release of City Manager Jim Hart, discussed its looming bankruptcy and considered a measure that would allow Adelanto’s residents to vote for a medical marijuana collective to operate in the city.

During a closed session, Thomas Thornton was named interim city manager of Adelanto, a city that finds itself in a dire fiscal crisis. Thornton told the Daily Press that he will work “triple-duty” as he will retain the position of city engineer and director of public works while taking on the new job. Thornton has also worked for Apple Valley, Hesperia and the Santa Clarita Water Company.

An earlier report of the city’s mid-year budget showed that Hart was expected to resign by the end of the month. Hart, who went on a two-week administrative leave last week, was absent from the meeting.

According to Wednesday’s staff report, Hart’s departure will cost the city $225,352.93, which includes a severance payment, benefits and employer taxes. The actual amount Hart receives will be lower due to “tax deductions and separate payments to insurance providers” which add up to about $160,000, according to the report.

The city will also continue to pay for Hart’s medical insurance, and Hart will receive a used vehicle from the city, according to the staff report.

Before the Hart announcement, the mood was grim in the council chambers after Onyx Jones (the interim finance director who said she was making her last presentation because she is stepping down) said Adelanto will be out of money by the end of the year if new revenue does not begin to flow in.

After hearing the news, Mayor Rich Kerr told the audience that the city is now beyond a fiscal emergency.

“We will shut down city hall, people will get their pink slips and there will be no more Adelanto,” Kerr said.

Jones said the options before the council are to “increase revenue or cut drastically.”

Councilman John “Bug” Woodard said laying off employees is the last thing the council wants to do.

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