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Q&A with Mayor Garbolino

By: Megan Wood The Press Tribune
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It’s no secret that 2009 was a big year for Roseville.
Budget woes led to mid-year layoffs and axing “extras” throughout the city, former City Manager Craig Robinson was dismissed and a Press Tribune investigation uncovered improprieties in Roseville Electric contracts.
As we usher in a new year and a new decade, The Press Tribune sat down with Mayor Gina Garbolino to discuss some of those issues and what’s in store for 2010.
Roseville Press Tribune: Now that it’s all said and done, can you tell us more about what led to Robinson’s dismissal?
Gina Garbolino: We told the truth given the time and circumstances of what was going on. There are certain restrictions that we have to uphold and operate under until everything has been settled. We as a council are prohibited from discussing what goes on in closed session and legally could not report out until all the threads were tied up out of respect for the employee. What I can tell you now, is no different from what I told you then. It got to a point where the structure was broken and wasn’t functioning the way it’s supposed to. It was a very difficult decision, as I think it should have been and the council looked at the options carefully. After we placed Craig on administrative leave, there were a few ways it could have played out; he could have retired, which he was eligible to do so, we could have given him his 12 months severance or we could have come to some kind of agreement between the two.
RPT: There has been some confusion about letting Robinson go “with cause” and “without cause.” Why couldn’t you have let Robinson go “with cause” and spared the severance payout?
GG: “With cause” has very special circumstances that only includes conviction of a felony of moral turpitude, which has very specific conditions. According to (Robinson’s) contract, we did not have cause to dismiss him. Of course we as a council had reasons to dismiss him, just not as defined as “cause” by his contract. (Robinson) had what the council calls an evergreen contract that had been in place for 22 years. So we had nothing to wait for.There wasn’t going to be an end to his contract, which is not uncommon for cities to have. We’ve always had long term relationships with our employees, however it’s something Roseville won’t have again. We are working with the city attorney to renegotiate future city manager’s contracts.
RPT: Can you give us an update on the investigation with Roseville Electric contracts?
GG: The investigation has been turned to Roseville Police Department and there is nothing further to add. It is out of our hands.
RPT: What has the city done to make sure this doesn’t happen again?
GG: As soon as we found out about it we got to work putting new processes and checks and balances in place. We now require two signatures on requests and orders. We’ve worked with finance and put a lot in place so that people are on their toes. After something like this happens once you make sure it doesn’t ever happen again.
RPT: There have been rumors that the city has lost money to Kobra Properties, which has filed for bankruptcy. How much has the city lost?
GG: We are not owed anything other than utility payments. The two properties that have been brought up the most are the conference center project and the Civic Plaza project. The city didn’t approve any loans or provide funds to Kobra for the conference center or the Civic Plaza project. The city has been working through the bankruptcy court to make sure that remaining project funds go to contractors and subcontractors who prove valid claims through the court process.
RPT: Do you think the residents have lost confidence in the City Council? If so, what do you think needs to be done to regain their trust?
GG: No, I think the public is still confident with the Council. My grandkids are always disappointed that I don’t get recognized when we go out. But I think that’s an indication that people are generally happy. I think if they were upset we’d hear about it more. I think our residents are able and busy living their daily lives without any problems. They’re confident in letting us do our job.
RPT: What have you accomplished as mayor that you’re most proud of?
GG: I haven’t done it yet. So much left to be done and it’s been such a wild ride. I always said I won’t be eased out of this position, I’m going to work through the end and when I step down, that will be it. Right now we’re working on reorganizing the city, looking at how many managers and department heads we have and are revisiting how we contract employees. I think as a city, we’ve really grown a lot and now it’s time to look within and see where we can improve from here on. The fact of the matter is we have to make sure our organization is ready for the future and as we go into a “new normal” because things aren’t going to be like they were five or six years ago and I think that’s a good thing. It’s not all going to happen overnight, but it’s important that we look to the future and plan to be around and continue to be a strong organization.