Story by Katie Hohman
Photo by Katelyn Hernandez
The City Council yielded to resident criticisms of the possible appointment of Christopher Jordan to the position of City Manager, and decided to rescind his employment agreement that was pending approval, at a special closed session meeting on Tuesday, Apr. 20. Per a press release, the Council will now complete a more thorough background check of the other top candidate — whose name was not released — before potentially appointing them as City Manager.
The search for a new City Manager follows Stephanie DeWolfe’s resignation on Sept. 12, 2020, and would replace current Interim City Manager Sean Joyce. Jordan had been the top choice for the job due to his prior stints as City Manager for West Linn, Oregon from 2005 to 2015 and for Los Altos, California from 2016 to 2020, until he resigned last November.
However, Jordan’s tenure in West Linn had come under fire by community members due to his hiring of Police Chief Terry Timeus despite receiving a report of Timeus’ past criminal behavior and lack of “moral fitness.” Specifically, Timeus was repeatedly accused of homophobic and racist remarks and actions in the workplace.
Jordan was later sued, along with Timeus, for $300,000 in a lawsuit accusing them of firing a police officer in retaliation for “testifying in support of another officer’s labor violation claims against the department.”
South Pasadena is currently in the process of hiring a new police chief, after Joe Ortiz stepped down in November 2020 over calls for an investigation into discrimination within the SPPD. The new City Manager will make the final decision on who will be the SPPD’s next leader.
“After the disaster that the last City Manager was for South Pasadena, I was expecting exceptional transparency in the process of hiring her replacement,” resident Chris Bray said. “We didn’t get that, and the result is failure. The council offered a contract to someone that no one else in the community has ever met. It’s insulting. They learned nothing from the Stephanie DeWolfe years.”
The City Council contracted with lawyer Gary Phillips to recruit the new City Manager, who utilized input from 31 residents serving on four focus groups. The process yielded more than 50 applications, five of which were interviewed, before applicants were narrowed down to two, who were then interviewed a second time along with a background check. Those two finalists were Jordan, who is now no longer in contention, and another person who the City will now revisit.
At the special closed session Council meeting on Apr. 20, residents voiced their opposition to Jordan in over 30 minutes of public comment.
“You have the audacity to advance the application of a man who, by all accounts, as City Manager, was dismissive of allegations regarding a vicious and abusively racist police chief,” local activist Anne Bagasao, who served on one of the four focus groups, said. “If you do this, you will have deeply offended the decent residents of our City and your resolutions, task forces and sound bites about anti-hate and Black lives over this past year will have amounted to nothing more than the pathetic platitudes of politicians.”
The multitude of public comments influenced the City Councilmembers to reverse course about Jordan and instead turn their attention to the other top applicant. The terms of an employment agreement with that person will be negotiated on after another thorough background check, and then presented for consideration at an upcoming City Council meeting.