Vernon Appoints New City Administrator

March 17, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

The former Director of Vernon Gas and Electric was appointed to serve as city administrator Tuesday.

The city council appointed Carlos R. Fandino to take over the position held by Mark Whitworth before his abrupt retirement late last year.

“Vernon is one of the most important industrial engines in L.A. County for business, economic and job development,” said Fandino.

“I’m honored and gratified to have been chosen…to lead our city through its next exciting phase,”

As director of the municipal-owned utility, Fandino worked on complex financial transactions, bond financing, department budgets and obtained an understanding of Vernon’s infrastructure needs he said would allow him to “hit the ground running.”

Carlos R. Fandino, left, was sworn-in as Vernon city administrator by Vernon City Clerk Maria Ayala during Tuesday’s city council meeting. (City of Vernon)

Carlos R. Fandino, left, was sworn-in as Vernon city administrator by Vernon City Clerk Maria Ayala during Tuesday’s city council meeting. (City of Vernon)

Vernon Chamber President and CEO Marisa Olguin said the chamber is pleased with the selection.

“Carlos Fandino has a strong record of municipal utility experience that fits well for the business community,” said Olguin.

Over 50 candidates applied for the position. Two Vernon Chamber board members, Vernon Independent Reform monitor and former Attorney General John Van de Kamp, interim city administrator AJ Wilson and two outside retired city managers, conducted panel interviews.

Fandino began his career in the public sector in 1989 with Vernon, serving in various positions. He was part of the original team that negotiated a settlement with Southern California Edison (SCE) to reinstate the city’s power system operating rights. As city administrator, he will receive a minimum annual salary of $279,468.

Fandino is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and decorated reservist. He graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in Business & Management from Woodbury University. He is married and the father to three college-age young adults.

Vernon Appoints Interim City Administrator

January 7, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

A public administration consultant who most recently served as the executive director of the San Bernardino International Airport Authority has been appointed Vernon’s Interim City Administrator, the city announced Thursday.

The appointment comes on the heels of last week’s sudden departure of former City Administrator Mark C. Whitworth.

According too the city, the Vernon City Council appointed A.J. Wilson to lead the city while an executive search firm and staff continue their search for a permanent replacement for Whitworth.

Whitworth retired Dec. 28 after more than 26 years of public service in Vernon, nearly five months earlier than he previously announced.

Related Story: Vernon Administrator Retires Abruptly

Wilson is the president of Wilson Communications, LLC, a management service-consulting firm. He is the former deputy mayor of St. Louis, Missouri and former city manager of the cities of Pomona, Santa Ana, Kansas City, Portland (Maine) and interim city manager of Norco.

Council members are expected to interview prospective candidates in the coming weeks.

Vernon Administrator Retires Abruptly

January 7, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

The city of Vernon will soon have a new interim city administrator at the helm following the abrupt retirement of Mark Whitworth, who exits with six months in severance pay.

Update: Vernon Appoints Interim City Administrator 

Whitworth is the fourth administrator to leave in 10 years. The three before him — Bruce Malkenhorst Sr., Eric Fresch and Donal O’Callaghan — all left under a cloud of political corruption and allegations of wrongdoing. Whitworth, the city’s fire chief at the time, was appointed Interim City Administrator in 2010 when O’Callaghan was suspended while being investigated on felony corruption charges to which he later pleaded guilty.

Whitworth was later made the permanent administrator, charged with shepherding the city through a tumultuous era of transformation.

Lea este artículo en Español: Administrador de Vernon se Retira Abruptamente

His sudden departure comes just weeks after he announced he would retire on May 2 of this year, giving the city ample time to find a replacement. At the time, Whitworth said May was a “firm date.”

Vernon Deputy City Clerk Ana Barcia confirmed Monday that Whitworth retired Dec 28 but would not elaborate further on what prompted the former city administrator to leave 5 months ahead of schedule.

Vernon is no stranger to controversy when it comes to its public officials, so Whitworth’s sudden departure has caused some people in the city to speculate he was forced out of office during a closed-session meeting the same day he retired.

In an email to EGP, a person who asked to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation noted that the agenda for the closed-session included discussion with legal counsel over “significant exposure to litigation.” Also on the agenda was discussion of the public employment of city administrator, the appointment of an interim city administrator and an item regarding the discipline/dismissal/release of a public employee, who the email writer speculated was Whitworth.

The meeting lasted three hours after which Special Legal Counsel Joung Yim announced there was no reportable action taken, according to city minutes.

On Wednesday, however, through a freedom of information request, EGP obtained from the city a copy of a settlement agreement between Vernon and Whitworth that seems to demonstrate city officials were willing to pay for his early departure.

According to the settlement, Whitworth, an at-will employee, will receive nearly $147,000 in severance pay, despite not being entitled to such pay under Section 6 (E) of his contract, which states if he “voluntarily resigns or retires … City shall have no obligation to pay any severance provided in this section…”

Former city administrator Mark Whitworth during a city council meeting. (City of Vernon)

Former city administrator Mark Whitworth during a city council meeting. (City of Vernon)

The settlement agreement, in great detail, releases the city, it’s employees, governing body, or agents from being the subject of any lawsuit brought by Whitworth or a group in which he is a named participant claiming any wrongdoing by the city.

It goes on to state that execution of the settlement is not to be “construed as an admission by City or Whitworth of any unlawful or wrongful acts,” against each other or any other person.

According to Councilwoman Melissa Ybarra, however, speculation that something untoward is afoot is unfounded. She assured that Whitworth’s decision to retire early was “amicable,” adding that the litigation discussed at the meeting had nothing to do with the city administrator.

“I’ve been getting questions from people, but I want to stress there was nothing illegal about it,” she said. “Mark [Whitworth] was not pushed into retirement.”

Without divulging what was said in closed session, Ybarra said Whitworth’s earlier retirement actually falls in line with the city’s recruitment and hiring timeline for a new city administrator.

She added that the city expects to hire his permanent replacement within the next two months.

The city council will take up the appointment on an interim administrator during a special closed session meeting at 2 p.m. today, Thursday, according to City Clerk Maria Ayala.

Vernon’s Independent Reform Monitor John Van de Kamp told EGP he anticipated that some people would question Whitworth’s abrupt departure and advised city staff to release a statement.

Van de Kamp said he actually expected Whitworth’s to retire sooner based on previous conversations with the former city administrator.

“He [Whitworth] deserves a lot of credit, he came in during a difficult time,” he said. “My guess is there will be, and should be, substantial celebration” honoring his tenure in the city.

Whitworth helped turn the city around, echoed Jim Andreoly Jr. of Baker Commodities. He did it by executing the reform process, he told EGP.

“The next city administrator will have big shoes to fill,” Andreoly Jr. said, explaining that Vernon is undergoing a major transitional period.

The hiring of a new city administrator and several department heads in coming months will be some of the most important decisions the city council will make in recent years, Van de Kamp told EGP.

“All it takes is a bad administrator and we go back to the way things were.”

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