The amazing rise of Chris Mann (4-3-2023)
There was an excellent letter to the editor of the News Mirror that we would like to highlight, because it is to the point and everything that is written still applies. We did also receive an anonymous submission that dives into additional details of Mann’s goldilocks contract. This essay seems worth sharing as well.
We wish that all of this was just made up, but unfortunately it is not. We all will pay the price for what is currently happening in Yucaipa, the former Jewel of the Inland Empire. Not only will we ultimately be paying more taxes for fewer services, we will also have to deal with more traffic, uncontrolled urban sprawl, an abolishment of our General Plan, an irreversible reduction of our open space, and the fallout of all the above. The reason why we are certain that this will happen if we do not fight back is, that there is now a whole army at City Hall working mostly to improve the perception of Chris Mann and his team, whitewash and distract from what really happened since he got to power, as well as shield him from any legal repercussions and solidify their grip to power.
Yucaipa’s new city manager's contract is alarming!
As published in the News Mirror, March 22nd, 2023 as a Letter to the Editor.
It does not take a law degree to see that the terms of Yucaipa City Manager Chris Mann’s employment contract are highly unfavorable to the City and its taxpayers (the contract is online). Mayor Justin Beaver admitted in recent public City Council meetings that the City had no legal representation during the City Council’s consideration and approval of Mr. Mann’s contract. Presumably this is because the City Council had just dismissed respected City Attorney David Snow in the same 4-hour closed session in which it forced the retirement of longtime City Manager Ray Casey and replaced Mr. Casey with Mr. Mann (who was waiting outside in his car in the parking lot during the closed session). The City Council did not solicit applications or interview any other candidates for the position. The forced retirement of Mr. Casey, closely following the glowing year-end review of his performance and the renewal of his contract in the final quarter of 2022 is said to have already cost the City over one million dollars.
It appears that the parties simply started with Mr. Mann’s City of Canyon Lake city manager contract as their template and then made various changes in his favor for his Yucaipa contract or these changes had already been made to the Canyon Lake contract when Mr. Mann presented it to the Yucaipa Council. I found his Canyon Lake contract online. [Here is a paragraph by paragraph comparison of the contracts] In Yucaipa, Mr. Mann will be paid a generous full-time salary with exceptional benefits, under a contract that does not even require him to work full-time for the City and allows him to pursue limited outside activities including consulting, other business pursuits, and holding elected or appointed office. The contract contains no conflict-of-interest provision constraining these outside activities. Mr. Mann can protest that he intends to work full-time for the City of Yucaipa, but his Yucaipa contract does not require him to do so and in fact the phrase “full-time” in his Canyon Lake contract was omitted in the Yucaipa contract.
In the Deferred Compensation section of Mr. Mann’s Yucaipa contract, the City has agreed to contribute the maximum amount allowed by the IRS to Mr. Mann’s retirement plan. How extraordinarily generous. It’s my understanding that this creates a long-term financial burden on the City that continues long after Mr. Mann is gone (whether he retires or is fired), and that such commitments made by a public entity to its employees are unfunded liabilities the cumulative effects of which may risk bankrupting a public entity.
Similarly, in the Retirement section of his Yucaipa contract the parties have provided that if Mr. Mann retires after serving as little as five years the City will continue to pay 100% of the premium for group health insurance and dental and vision care for him and his dependents, apparently for life. I suspect this will strike Yucaipa taxpayers as unconscionably extravagant and downright irresponsible. How can the present City Council commit future City budgets to this uncapped liability for decades? Such a provision is absent in the Canyon Lake contract.
While Mr. Mann’s Canyon Lake contract permits termination for cause if he is convicted of or pleads guilty or no contest to any crime or offense (other than minor traffic violations) which may have a material adverse effect on the city or Mr. Mann’ reputation, such language was altered in the Yucaipa contract to require that the offense be a felony and then only if the felony conviction (or guilty or no contest plea) occurred within 12 months of the termination date. We Yucaipa citizens are left to wonder, why did our City Council agree that even a felony is not an acceptable reason to terminate Mr. Mann’s employment for cause unless the felony conviction (or guilty or no contest plea) occurred within 12 months of the termination date? Note that if the City terminates him without “cause” it must provide 12 months’ severance and health benefits.
I cannot describe in one letter all of the disturbing provisions in Mr. Mann’s Yucaipa contract so I will simply end by quoting this appalling portion of Section 22 that was added to the language in the same section in the Canyon Lake version: “City agrees that City Manager has, at his discretion, the authority to interpret, amend and make exceptions to personnel rules and policies as they apply to the City Manager.”
The citizens of Yucaipa deserve a full accounting of the short- and long-term costs of Chris Mann’s contract and an explanation from the City Council as to why the Council rushed pell mell into this contract without benefit of legal counsel, without advertising the position state-wide as is customary, and without questioning and rejecting certain extravagantly generous terms in the contract that are particularly inappropriate for an employee with such limited city management experience and who enjoyed zero competition for the position.
Stephanie Harlan, Yucaipa
Chris Mann’s employment contract: A part-time position with a full-time salary
Looking at the new City Manager’s contract, it shows us a template for disaster! We lost our Princeton educated manager in a manner that has inflamed our city. This contract that Mayor Beaver claims to have negotiated on our behalf looks like an outright dereliction of duty. The longer you look at the legal document the more troubling it becomes. Mr. Mann and Mr. Graham came to us as a package deal. They worked together in Canyon Lakes. Mr. Graham brought Mr. Mann’s Canyon Lake's contract to our city, and then modified it to Mr. Mann’s benefit. Perhaps Mayor Beaver did not know this was Mr. Mann’s Canyon Lake contract but if he was not aware of that “detail”, then that seems even worse. Mr. Graham should not have been allowed to represent both sides in contract negotiations. Both sides are supposed to be represented by independent counsel, someone who is supposed to look out for the two entities’ interests. Since Mr. Graham made so many changes that only benefited Chris Mann to the detriment of Yucaipa, who represented our City?
So, now we have hired an un-vetted, unqualified, inexperienced person, with an incomplete master’s degree as our City Manager. Our Mayor is replacing a full-time employee with a part-time one. However, he is still getting a full-time salary with 100% medical for himself and his family, a $600 car allowance, retirement contributions, and much more. Are we paying for his Redlands Country Club membership too? The full-time wording from the Canyon Lakes contract was replaced with wording describing how Mr. Mann is allowed to continue his other businesses (businesses that supported him full time before this job) and he can even hold an elected public office on the side. This is no accident of wording. The only reason to remove the full-time wording, is because it is not a full-time position. It really does mean a part-time position with a full-time salary! Mayor Beaver tells us Mr. Mann will be on call 24/7. But being on call means he will answer his phone, it does not mean he will be doing the City’s business 24/7. Clearly, Mr. Mann wants to continue his political lobbying. Did he take this job because it helps his political lobbying?
Most other public office contracts have complete paragraphs or pages on what other activities employees like a City Manager are and are not allowed to perform. They also have detailed information about what constitutes a conflict of interest. No conflicts or concerns about conflicts are listed in this contract. This, even though one of Mr. Mann’s other businesses, includes Mann Communications*, a political lobbying company for hire. It is involved in political consulting, assisting, and recruiting local government staff and political staffers, it works to influence the outcomes of elections, and much more – legal but often unethical, biased, and unfair. He says, “He has extensive experience gaining positive results for our land use clients through aggressive government, media and community relations programs”. How is it possible that Mr. Mann will serve as our City Manager, a position in government, without having conflicts with his own business? Evidently, there are no conflict of interest worries by our City Council, or if there are, they are not mentioned. However, there should be because there are red flags everywhere!
Chris Mann’s contract includes no paragraphs detailing the hours that Mr. Mann will be in the City Manager’s office in Yucaipa. In fact, there is no mention of any required presence time at City Hall, it seems all up to his judgment. This is very concerning since Mr. Mann is being hired part-time. This contract stipulates that he is to give the City his productive hours. There is no definition of productive hours, it is a very vague term that any real attorney who would have represented the city would have objected to (Like most everything else by the way in the contract). This vagueness of specific duties, the blatant favoritism in Chris Mann’s benefit, outrageous conditions, concessions, and accommodations for the new City Manager seem a definite dereliction by those who formalized the contract (Steven Graham) and those who accepted it (The entire City Council).
Mr. Mann will be earning a full-time salary of $260,000, with benefits, this is around $330,000 per year. Additionally, he is guaranteed never to be paid less than 110% of the base salary of the City’s next highest paid employee. The new Assistant Manager, - which is a new position established by Chris Mann, is in addition to the one we already have, - will be paid $225,000, with benefits this amounts to about $290,000 per year. Why does he need a second Assistant Manager? It would seem that Chris Mann must need another Assistant Manager and additional staff so he can run his other private businesses. – Again: A part-time job with a full-time salary.
The employment contract also states that Chris Mann can hire and fire employees at will, at whatever salary he deems necessary. The Council cannot interfere or pressure him about any of these hires. No Council member is allowed to provide direction about anything, unless they are in a Council session. No chats in the hallways, offices or elsewhere with him are allowed. So, we are just handing the City over to this new manager. We gave him the keys to our city and access to our bank accounts.
Yucaipa has functioned beautifully in the black financially, since its incorporation in 1989. However, City Hall is now hiring three new contract employees. These new, top-tier hires come to us with no Yucaipa experience, costing Yucaipa an additional $675,316 per year. The Council stated we could afford these new contracted positions, however they previously also said that our office and staff performed beautifully and efficiently. Why this 180° change of their message? Mr. Mann said that he needs three assistants, “people whom he can trust”! Does that mean he considers our current City staff untrustworthy? Is this maybe an indication of how much we can trust him?
During Mr. Mann’s tenure at Canyon Lakes, he took their city’s fire department private. They went from having seasoned fire fighters to a fire department with inexperienced new hires. They went from having three fire stations to having one. Their city budget was left in the red that year. Mayor Beaver says this happened, “Because their City Council lost control of him.” We just hired someone that could not be controlled in his last job! Our Council is not allowed to influence or interfere with Mr. Mann’s administration, per his contract. He can run his administration as he wishes. He can hire whomever, whenever, and contract with any companies he wishes to build the City’s projects. There are no quick controls, and he could leave our city in the red like he did Canyon Lake.
Mr. Graham made another change to the Canyon Lakes contract. He changed the clause requiring dismissal for a felony to a felony that affects the city! Does not any felony by a City Manager affect his ability to manage, his credibility, and ultimately also the perception of a city? A felon cannot even vote in California, but per contract should he commit a felony, he can continue to run our city! Since Steven Graham, the new City Attorney (who is a partner with Cole Huber LLP (https://colehuber.com) and contracted by Yucaipa), at every turn, inserted clauses to Mr. Mann’s benefit, Mayor Beaver, who exactly was representing us, the taxpayers, the citizens of Yucaipa? As a side note: Steven Graham is supposed to give legal advice and represent Yucaipa, not Chris Mann and his team, because he too gets paid by our tax dollars and not by Chris Mann.
All of this stinks and seems like a reckless dereliction of duty or gross negligence so bad that a forced removal from office or even prosecution seems a viable solution. Maybe our City Council and the newly hired city staff should keep this in mind.