Upland seal

Rod Butler, city manager of Upland, was relieved of his duties in late July.

By Liset Márquez, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin
Posted: 08/09/16 – 11:25 AM PDT |

UPLAND >> The city will pay fired city manager Rod Butler nearly $23,000 a month — or $206,997 over a nine-month period — not to show up to work.

It will pay much less for the man officially hired Monday to replace him on an interim basis while the City Council searches for new leadership. Martin Thouvenell, an Upland former police and fire chief, has agreed to help guide the city out of financial straits for $75 an hour, or up to $72,000 for 960 hours.

Despite the financial consequences, reaction in council chambers was positive with several residents speaking out in favor of the decision to bring in Thouvenell.

After a unanimous decision from the council, the interim city manager then took his seat on the dais and helped conduct the rest of the meeting.

“My primary focus starting (Tuesday) will be developing a budget that will get us through some of the issues that I see existing today, down the road and years to come,” he told the council.

On July 27, the Upland City Council terminated Butler, effective Aug. 29. Thouvenell was appointed to replace Butler while a permanent leader was found.

Thouvenell said he’s not only going to be relying on a number of influential people to help him through this process but intends to assemble a committee and “come up with a comprehensive bailout of the budget that will be presented to the council in the next few months.”

Ideally, that plan would be ready for council review in two months, he later said.

Thouvenell also told the council he hopes city leaders — who have had a history of discord and split votes — will be able to put aside their personal differences and work on the budget. As of Monday night, Thouvenell said he had already met individually with all council members and was very encouraged by their interest for the city.

“I know you’ll all do a good job, and I really look forward to working with you,” he told council members.

According to the staff report, Thouvenell will be paid 15 percent less of Butler’s hourly rate, and will not receive any benefits.

Thouvenell has the fifth-highest paid pension in the city, receiving $154,167 annually, according to 2015 figures provided by Transparent California.

If a city manager is selected within six months, the city briefly could wind up paying for two city manager salaries simultaneously: the fired director’s salary and the permanent replacement. All this for a city that has grappled with financial issues in the past several years: In its 2016-2017 budget, Upland has a slim $220,000 surplus.

In a confusing moment during Monday’s meeting, some in attendance prematurely erupted in cheers when they thought the council had voted to approve Thouvenell’s contract. The council had simply voted to move the vote to the top of the agenda so the council could take public comments and cast its vote.

Resident and Grove Theater owner Bill Kinison said it is rare for him to attend meetings, but the hiring of a city manager is a big decision he had to personally witness.

Kinison has known Thouvenell for 25 years — they met when he opened the theater.

“I’ve known him to be a man of passion, a man of wisdom and I personally wish we would have hired him a long time ago,” Kinison said. “I think he will be a fantastic city manager.”

But the praise didn’t end there. One resident, who said Thouvenell once wrote her a ticket when he was a police officer, came out to voice her support for the interim city manager.

To read expanded article, click here.