Less than two weeks after retiring, Ott returns to city manager position

SOLANA BEACH — He’s back.

Less than two weeks after David Ott retired for the second time in four years city officials asked him — and he agreed — to return as city manager.

Following a closed session meeting Dec. 10, Mayor Lesa Heebner announced she and her colleagues directed the city attorney to ask Ott if he would consider an interim position during the recruitment process.

The appointment was made official at a Dec. 17 special meeting.

“He told the council that he would not leave us in a lurch, that he wouldn’t abandon us if we couldn’t come to an agreement on another city a manager,” Heebner said.

“With your direction last week I reached out to David Ott,” City Attorney Johanna Canlas said. “I asked him if his offer still stands. He has graciously agreed to serve as interim city manager.”

As a retired government employee, the terms of Ott’s return are dictated by the state.

“We actually have a beginning and an end date,” Canlas said. “This is specified by state law so we can’t deviate from it.”

His start date was the following day, Dec. 18, and his employment must end no later than June 30, 2015, as he can only work 960 hours in a fiscal year.

He will be paid $92.91 an hour, an amount based on his salary when he retired last month. Ott will receive no benefits.

Had Ott not retired his salary and benefits from December 2014 through June 2015 would have been $138,900. The interim position during that same time will cost $96,017, for a savings of nearly $43,000.

“No matter who we hire as interim city manager the cost would be pretty much the same,” Heebner said.

Working with a recruitment firm, the city began actively looking for a replacement for Ott when he announced his retirement in May. Several candidates were interviewed but council could not reach consensus on a candidate.

New proposals were solicited, and Ralph Andersen & Associates was one of three firms who responded. It is the same company Carlsbad used in its search for a city manager earlier this year.

Council members unanimously approved an agreement to work with the firm, which is charging the city a flat fee of $23,750.

The recruitment team will be made up of David Morgan, a former Anaheim city manager, and James Armstrong, a recently retired city administrator in Santa Barbara.

Canlas said the process should take three to four months, with a new city manager expected to be in place before the start of the next fiscal year on July 1, 2015.

Ott began working for Solana Beach in 2003 as fire chief and director of public safety. He was named deputy city manager in 2005 and city manager the following year.

He retired in 2010, but when a replacement couldn’t be found he agreed to act as the interim city manager. Ott returned to the position full time by the end of 2011.

He accepted a two-year contract with an option for a one-year extension, which put his tenure at the end of this November.

“It’s for real,” Ott said when he announced his current retirement plans in May. Since then many people have said, “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

Wendé Protzman was named to serve as interim city manager, however, one of the city’s top planners retired and she is needed back in that department, Heebner said.

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