VALLEJO – Low pay and stressful working conditions were cited as the main reason nearly 60 employees left the city of Vallejo during the 2nd and 3rd quarters of 2021, according to exit interview data released by the city.
Vallejo lost more than 20 employees during the 1st quarter of last year as well. The reason for those departures were not expressly given in a separate report.
Several city departments were criticized in the 2nd and 3rd quarter exit interviews, including the Vallejo Police Department.
“Many state that the low level of pay combined with the heavy workload led them to leave, but that, particularly in the Police Department, morale is so low due to Chief (Shawny) Williams’ leadership and the lack of internal and external support, it would not be possible to stay,” according to a report exploring city-wide trends on separating employees.
The same report goes on to state that a lack of “growth opportunity combined with pay issues” were cited as the cause that 5 out of the 17 employees in development services, which includes the planning and building divisions, left.
In the Housing and Community Development division, the report stated that, “every separating employee said explicitly that their departure would have been prevented had their issues with Housing management not remained unaddressed.”
The report does not state what those issues are, but the housing division has been in a state of flux since the end of May 2021 when Judy Shepard-Hall, Vallejo’s housing and community development program manager, was placed on leave following a presentation to the Vallejo City Council in which she said the city’s planned homeless navigation center was significantly delayed and over budget.
City officials revealed last December that there was a 30 percent staffing level in the housing division.
Exiting employees said that increasing staffing levels and focusing on mismanagement would improve the city organization and bring stability.
A third report which tracked data from 29 exit interviews between Sept. 1, 2020, through Feb. 10, 2021, found the same concerns, with “leadership” being the least liked part of their employment with the city of Vallejo.
“This was followed closely by an experience of disconnect between City Hall/Council/Mayor and the rest of the City, and poor communication from and understanding by those groups of the rest of the City and those out in the field,” according to the report, which was authored by city personnel technician Sara Castro. “The rest of the responses focused on low pay and benefits, old or unsafe equipment, unfair hiring practices, no opportunity to grow and poor training.”
Vallejo spokesperson Christina Lee confirmed that the city had about 150 vacancies as of Jan. 11.
The city’s human resources department also experienced significant turnover at the top last year as Heather Ruiz left Vallejo to become the HR director for the city of Napa in March. Assistant HR Director Mark Love was made interim HR director before getting the permanent job in July 2021. He also left the city earlier this month. The department is currently led by Carmen Valdez, a consultant with Municipal Resource Group.
There are currently 8 positions at the senior leadership level being filled on an interim basis, including city manager, public works director, housing manager, HR director, two assistant city manager positions, water director, and planning and development services director.
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John Glidden worked as a journalist covering the city of Vallejo for more than 10 years. He left journalism in 2023 and currently works in the office of Solano County Supervisor Monica Brown.
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