Oceanside city manager to face focused review

OCEANSIDE — City Council will meet in closed session Wednesday to review and possibly replace City Manager Steve Jepsen.

Councilman Jack Feller continues to be a strong supporter of Jepsen, and credits Jepsen for his foresight and good work.

“He’s making all the right decisions as city manger,” Feller said.

Mayor Jim Wood said Jepsen needs to speak up and come to some compromises with city council during his review to keep his position.

Jepsen formerly served as Oceanside city manager from 2000 to 2006. Feller, who was a city councilman when Jepsen last served, invited him back to the position.

Wood and Councilwoman Esther Sanchez were also on City Council at that time. They were the two votes against hiring Jepsen back.

Since rehiring Jepsen in October 2013, the City Council majority has shifted. Councilman Chuck Lowery fills the seat of Gary Felien, who along with Feller and Councilman Jerry Kern, voted in Jepsen for another run as city manager.

One of Wood’s concerns is several city department heads have left since Jepsen came on board. Wood did not share the number of city administrators or their reasons for parting ways with the city.

In at least one instance a department administrator took another position because a raise was not awarded.

Wood and Sanchez have been outspoken at recent public meetings about giving city employees fair compensation.

Wood said considering whether to keep Jepsen on as city manager has nothing to do with differences he and Jepsen have regarding hiring of a public information officer.

Feller said some people speculate otherwise. He added Jepsen left in 2006 when there were internal disagreements about firing city staff.

The agenda for Feb. 18 lists an evaluation of Jepsen and/or dismissal.

Feller expressed surprise at a dismissal being posted as part of the initial discussion.

“I don’t see how you can not have the discussion before you come up with a solution,” Feller said. “It shouldn’t be a done deal.”

He said even if the council majority is displeased with Jepsen a separation agreement would need to come back to the City Council as a public vote.

Wood said he did not want to speculate on what Jepsen will say or do during the closed-session evaluation, and added city managers often leave when the council majority changes.

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