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.
Following issues with the previous City Manager’s handling of the City budget and a heightened pattern of staff turnover, community members strongly opposed Jordan’s prospective appointment.
“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.
How sad that South Pasadena’s City Council made a decision based on articles that were written with false and unfounded information and pressure from the Community. I worked for Chris Jordan for over 3 years and he was a strong leader in Los Altos that made some great changes for the community and the staff of Los Altos. The employees were devastated when Chris was pushed out due to their own personal opinions when they didn’t get their way politically. Have any of you actually paid attention to the numerous lawsuits that Los Altos has been involved in due to Council decisions? Probably not. And yet, none of them want to take responsibility for their votes that ended up in legal woes. There are individuals on the past and current Los Altos Council that didn’t like Chris and constantly went to the papers to spread false information about him when he didn’t push their political plays. You would think the community of South Pasadena would want a City Manager that is ethical and stands up to a Council when they have their own agendas at play and aren’t looking out in the best interest of the community. You made a bad decision not hiring Chris Jordan.
Nice article. You might want to lose that photo of DeWolfe.