From left, Mayor Rusty Bailey, Mayor Pro Tem Chris Mac Arthur, City Manager John Russo and City Attorney Gary Geuss. A weekly planning meeting didn’t happen Monday, Feb. 12, when Bailey’s colleagues did not attend. (File photos)

By Ryan Hagen | | The Press-Enterprise
Published: February 12, 2018 at 6:47 pm | Updated: February 12, 2018 at 7:19 pm

Since before Rusty Bailey was elected Riverside mayor in 2012, the city’s top officials — the mayor, city manager, city attorney, city clerk and mayor pro tem — have met nearly every Monday in what they call the Teamwork and Communication meeting.

But Monday, Feb. 12, everyone but Bailey refused to attend.

The sessions where city leaders coordinate for the upcoming week fell victim to the fallout over Bailey’s attempted veto last week of City Manager John Russo’s new contract. The city attorney said Bailey lacked authority for that veto and that he’d have to go to court to enforce it.

On Monday, Mayor Pro Tem Chris Mac Arthur said there’s no sense holding the meeting while Bailey is threatening to sue the city. Russo and City Attorney Gary Geuss could not be reached Monday.

Bailey told Mac Arthur by email that he hadn’t threatened a lawsuit. But, he said by phone Monday, he wouldn’t rule out the possibility of going to court to establish his interpretation of the city charter — that it allows him to veto a contract for the city manager that he considers excessive and poorly timed.

“I will protect the city charter and the office of the mayor and the veto power to the best of my ability,” Bailey said.

The conflict boiled over Tuesday, Feb. 6, after the City Council voted 5-2 to extend Russo’s contract, two years before it was set to expire.

Bailey announced he was vetoing the vote, saying it was inappropriate for Russo to seek an extended contract when citywide cuts were on the horizon. Russo’s total compensation, including benefits, is $415,988 per year.

Geuss said the charter doesn’t give the mayor that power over the city manager. Bailey nonetheless issued a veto message Friday, Feb. 9, and asked the City Council to schedule a meeting to override it, which requires five votes.

Mac Arthur said he agrees with the city attorney that there is no veto to override.

“I think the ball is in the mayor’s court,” Mac Arthur, who as mayor pro tem represents the City Council at the meetings, said Monday. “I just don’t think they will be productive as long as there’s a threatened lawsuit against the city by the mayor.

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