At their Wednesday, May 9 meeting, the Elk Grove City Council is expected to announce that City Manager Laura Gill’s contract will be terminated, a source told Elk Grove Laguna News.
Gill had been the city manager since 2008. According to her bio, Gill came to the city after serving 5 years as the Chief Administrative Officer for El Dorado County and 15 years working for the City of Durham in North Carolina.
The city came under fire earlier this spring when $38,000 was spent on consultants to come up with a name for the Elk Grove Civic Center. Neither the city council or local residents were impressed with the names proposed and scuttled naming the center at this time. As City Manager, Gill had the authority to spend up to $50,000 without council approval. The hiring of consultants was done without council approval. After the initial disclosure of the proposed names, the city council chose to reach out to the community for more suggestions. Local residents were unhappy the city spent $38,000 on names without asking for the public’s input first.
Shortly after the Civic Center naming issues, the city initiated an ill timed survey asking residents for their opinion of a proposed sales tax increase. Coming on the heels of having $38,000 spent on nothing, the public response on social media was overwhelmingly negative. The city council eventually decided to postpone further discussions of a sales tax. With a possible repeal of the gas tax expected to make the November ballot, asking for a sales tax increase on the same ballot had little chance of passing. In a poll on Elk Grove Laguna Forums, 76% voted no on a proposed sales tax. Over 2000 voted were cast in the poll.
A few weeks later the City Council denied a proposal by City Staff to authorize Gill to be able to purchase homes for the City’s plan to help fight homelessness in the city. The proposal would have granted Gill the power to authorize spending up to $500,000 without council approval. At the meeting the city came under fire from local residents who were unhappy with the process the city was using to buy the homes without input from nearby neighbors. The council delayed purchasing additional homes until more public outreach could occur.
All these incidents could be seen as signs that the city council may not have been happy with Gill’s performance. The City of Elk Grove operates under what is commonly referred to as a “weak mayor” system. The City Manager is responsible for the daily operations of the city and oversees city staff. The council is responsible for the overall direction of the city and votes to approve projects and spending, but does not oversee the daily operations. From the City’s website:
City Manager is responsible for the day-to-day oversight and management of all City departments. The City of Elk Grove operates under the council/manager form of government. The City Manager is responsible for the implementation of the City Council’s policies, execution of the city’s budget and enforcement of all laws and ordinances
During Gill’s tenure as City Manager, the city went through the recession that saw property values drop and hundreds of foreclosures. The recession also led to the stoppage in work on Elk Grove’s “Ghost Mall” that still stands as a reminder as it sits empty along highway 99.
In recent years as other cities such as Roseville and Folsom saw upscale retail projects like the Fountains in Roseville and the Palladio in Folsom be completed, Elk Grove has been unable to get proposed mall completed. Mall owner Howard Hughes Corporation has repeatedly delayed the construction of the mall. In 2017 part of the mall property was sold to the Wilton Rancheria Tribe for construction of a casino. That is expected to open in 2020. One local business owner told Elk Grove Laguna News that the mall is now expected to open in 2020.
It is expected the current assistant city manager Jason Behrmann will named interim city manager