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City Council considering overhauling city charter

By Shea Johnson, Staff Writer
Posted Jul. 7, 2015 at 8:54 PM

ADELANTO — The City Council is considering overhauling its city charter, including potentially moving to a “strong mayor” form of government, a system where the mayor acts as the city’s chief executive, Mayor Pro Tem Jermaine Wright confirmed Tuesday.

Saying the movement will rely heavily on public input and is far from solidified, Wright rejected “power play” claims by multiple sources inside City Hall who allege he and Mayor Rich Kerr are leading a purge of employees connected to former Mayor Cari Thomas and former City Manager Jim Hart.

A shift to the new form of government was just one idea that had been tossed around, Wright said, along with the possibility of dividing Adelanto into districts to provide better representation to the city’s north side. While almost all large U.S. cities use “strong mayor” systems, most smaller ones use the council-manager system or the “weak mayor” system, where the elected mayor has no more authority than other council members — the system Adelanto and other local cities employ now. Any changes would need to be placed on the November 2016 ballot.

“We’re looking at the long game,” Wright said.

But multiple sources within the city government, who spoke to the Daily Press on condition of anonymity due to retaliation fears, claim that employees are being unfairly targeted for termination. They claim some Council members meet in quorums to discuss personnel changes (which would violate the Brown Act and the city’s charter), harassing workers and directing the city manager to fire employees they dislike.

An employee at the law office of Victorville-based attorney James Alderson said Tuesday that Alderson’s office is representing four city employees in a lawsuit that could be filed as early as next week.

“My strong feeling is that there has been multiple violations through the charter,” City Councilman Ed Camargo said on Tuesday when asked to respond to the allegations.

Section 609 of the charter forbids City Council members from directing the city manager to appoint or remove employees.

“That is one of my concerns, and I want to be … transparent and not mislead my residents from the truth as I see what’s going on,” Camargo said. “Comments we’ve had from staff and the public, there is a great concern with the ethical behavior of at least three of the five.”

Camargo did not name names. Kerr and Councilman Charley Glasper could not be reached Tuesday for comment.

Wright denied the allegations.

“I could care less who (employees) are friends with,” he said. “If they’re doing the best jobs for the residents … I will back the person 100 percent no matter who they are … I have no personal agenda when it comes to employees, who they are or what they do.”

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