VALLEJO – The exodus at Vallejo City Hall continues as Human Resources Director Mark Love left his position last week, interim City Manager Mike Malone confirmed Friday.
Malone said that, in the meantime, interim Assistant City Manager Terrance Davis “will provide oversight during the transition with help from a retired HR Director consultant who will provide technical expertise and advice to the City.”
Love’s departure comes as the city grapples with multiple high-ranking positions being filled on an interim basis, including city manager, two assistant city managers, water director, public works director, planning and development services director, and housing manager.
“Turnover throughout the City is a concern shared by all department heads and Council,” Malone said when asked if he was concerned with the amount of turnover within city hall.
The high turnover at city hall began about two years ago when then-City Manager Greg Nyhoff fired three of his trusted employees in April 2020. Two of them — Will Morat, assistant to the city manager for economic development, and Slater Matzke, special advisor to the city manager — drove Nyhoff’s economic development team. The third fired employee was Joanna Altman, assistant to the city manager for communications and special projects.
To fill the gap, Nyhoff promoted Ruiz and Planning and Development Services Director Gillian Hayes to interim deputy city manager positions in October 2020. That created a vacancy with the planning and development services director position which was filled by the Planning Manager Christina Ratcliffe, who had just been hired at the time.
The fired employees would go on to file a joint wrongful termination lawsuit against the city early last year, claiming Nyhoff let them go because they had raised concerns about Nyhoff’s behavior.
They allege that Nyhoff “created a culture of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation Vallejo that was so deeply embedded that other employees felt free to do the same,” according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit also names Cardwell, Ruiz and Randy Risner, who was serving as interim city attorney at the time. Risner returned to his original position as chief assistant city attorney with the hiring of Veronica Nebb as city attorney in November 2020.
The exodus continued when Fire Chief Daryl Arbuthnott suddenly resigned in April 2021 after more than two years with the city. Deputy Fire Chief Kyle Long was appointed interim fire chief to fill the empty position.
Over the 2021 Memorial Day break, the city lost two more high-ranking officials, including City Manager Greg Nyhoff, who disappeared with an unknown medical condition days before the city council was expected to approve a new fiscal year budget.
Nyhoff’s departure came days after Judy Shepard-Hall, Vallejo’s housing and community development program manager, was placed on leave following a disastrous May presentation before the city council in which she revealed that the city’s homeless navigation center not only would be significantly delayed, but the project’s budget had also more than doubled.
Nyhoff never returned to work and the council approved a $577,536 resignation and separation agreement with him in July, ending his three-and-a-half year tenure. The payment included the remaining balance Nyhoff was owed under his contract with Vallejo, which was scheduled to end in January 2023.
While interim city manager, Cardwell made Long the permanent fire chief and Love the permanent HR director. Her promotion meant the assistant city manager position was empty and Hayes was named to fill the position on an interim basis. Hayes was also named interim housing manager as Shepard-Hall was officially removed from the position last fall.
City spokeswoman Christina Lee said last October that Shepard-Hall was still on paid administrative leave. When contacted this week about Shepard-Hall’s employment status, Lee said she couldn’t comment on personnel matters.
Beth Schoenberger, hired as water operations manager in November 2018, was tapped to lead the water department following Malone’s promotion to interim city manager.
Last November, Public Works Director Terrance Davis was named as the second interim Assistant City Manager. That forced Melissa Tigbao, the city’s assistant public works director and city engineer to be promoted to interim public works director after Davis’ elevation to interim assistant city manager.
When asked, Malone said he hasn’t named an interim HR director.
“We are currently interviewing with the hope of appointing someone,” he added.
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