OCEANSIDE — City Council members dug in their heels and stuck with their previously stated views regarding rehiring Steven Jepsen as city manager on Oct. 16. City Council voted 3-2 to hire Jepsen, with Mayor Jim Wood and Councilwoman Esther Sanchez casting no votes.
Jepsen formerly served as Oceanside City Manager from 2000 to 2006.
Wood and Sanchez reiterated their concerns about past problems under Jepsen’s watch.
“A whole lot of really crappy things happened,” Sanchez said. “A $2.2 million giveaway to Malkin (SD Malkin Properties), spiking pensions of employees.”
Sanchez went on to list other “scandalous” incidents that Jepsen was not legally proven to be at fault for, but is said to be linked to the individuals involved.
These incidents include a city employee who hired an underqualified friend for a city job and was let go along with the new hire, and another city employee who moved contaminated city dirt to a residential property.
Sanchez went on to say Jepsen might be voted out of office by the 2014 City Council.
“He may very well be out the door in a year,” Sanchez said. “Two people, including the mayor, are not able to work with this man.”
Several residents also expressed concerns about Jepsen’s past service and the nomination of Jepsen without completing the search process.
“I’m wondering about this hiring process you used for Mr. Jepsen,” Pat
McFarlane, of the Democratic Club of Carlsbad/Oceanside, said. “No nationwide attempt was made to see who might be available. We’re looking at someone who had a bit of a checkered past as far as Oceanside is concerned.”
McFarlane added she would be keeping an eye on Jepsen.
“It’s one of the most important jobs in Oceanside.”
Councilmen Jack Feller, Jerry Kern and Gary Felien spoke in support of Jepsen.
Feller, who served on the City Council while Jepsen was city manager, said Jepsen is “a very smart man, a very ethical man, a man of God, and a straight shooter.”
Feller recommended Jepsen for city manager and has been a big supporter of him filling the position.
“He started an awful lot of good things here,” Feller said. “He knows the cost of things and what’s necessary to make a coastal city thrive.”
Feller added that a one-year severance package is not unusual.
Kern, who served as Oceanside Chamber of Commerce president while Jepsen was city manager, said “the business community is absolutely ecstatic” to have Jepsen returned to office.
“I’m happy to have him back,” Kern said.
Felien said he did not have a prior working relationship with Jepsen, but spoke to several people about Jepsen’s service and interviewed Jepsen for a few hours before deciding Jepsen was the right candidate for the job.
“I wholeheartedly support him,” Felien said.
Felien said Jepsen has all the qualities he is looking for in a city manager including prudent fiscal responsibility.
Jepsen was not present at the meeting.
He will receive $231,840 a year and be paid a full year’s salary if he is voted out of office by the elected 2014 City Council.
Jepsen will begin the job as city manager in mid-November.