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BREAKING: Mammoth Town Manager at loggerheads with Town Council; special closed meeting set for Friday

August 28, 2013

Pictured: Former Town Manager Dave Wilbrecht, left, and current Town Manager Marianna Marysheva-Martinez. Marysheva-Martinez is said to be at loggerheads with the Town Council, which will meet in closed session Friday, Aug. 30, regarding her contract. Wilbrecht left his position earlier in 2013 as a result of conflicts with the Town Council. File Photo

The Mammoth Lakes Town Council and Town Manager Marianna-Marysheva Martinez appear to be headed toward a parting of the ways.

The council has conducted three closed-door meetings regarding the extension of her contract, and another is to be announced for Friday evening, Aug. 30.
 
Closed sessions are not open to the public, as mandated by California State law, which dictates all personnel discussions be held behind closed doors.
 
Any action taken that the council may take in closed session would be announced afterward.
 
One of the closed-door sessions was in advance of a regular council meeting. Another closed-door meeting on Friday, Aug. 23, was a special meeting, and required only a 24-hour notice.
 
So far, no vote nor action has been taken regarding Marysheva-Martinez’s contract, but two sources, who wished to remain unnamed to steer clear of the letter of the law, said a vote on her future could happen at the Friday meeting.
 
If Marysheva-Martinez and the town part ways, her replacement might be from the local citizenry.
 
The town staff, which insiders say never gave Marysheva-Martinez a political foundation with which to defend herself, has been abuzz all week that the replacement might be Mammoth businessman Tom Cage, owner of Kittredge Sports, P3, the Chevron gas station and the Hertz rental car franchise.
 
Cage issued a non-denial denial in an interview Tuesday, Aug. 27, calling the buzz “just rumors.”
 
The town staff, which insiders say never gave Marysheva-Martinez a political foundation with which to defend herself, has been abuzz all week that the replacement might be Mammoth businessman Tom Cage, owner of Kittredge Sports, P3, the Chevron gas station and the Hertz rental car franchise.
 
Cage issued a non-denial denial in an interview Tuesday, Aug. 27, calling the buzz “just rumors.
 
“What’s Mammoth without rumors?” he asked rhetorically, before saying he had no comment as to veracity of the increasing chatter in the corridors of the Town Offices.
 
Others, speaking strictly on the condition that their names not be used in the ramp-up to the Friday meeting, said the council’s decision was likely to be a vote of confidence/no-confidence in the day-to-day execution of her job.
 
Still others, also speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the conflict arose over personality.
 
Marysheva-Martinez’ tenacious style, which in June produced a cogent, but tough, five-year budget plan, also produced the settlement of the MLLA/Terry Ballas Entities litigation, cut against the grain of Mammoth’s history of laid-back (one insider called it “lazy”) approach.
 
Marysheva-Martinez, who arrived back to work on Monday, Aug. 26, was not present in any of the previous three closed-door sessions. It remained unclear if she were to attend Friday evening’s meeting.
 
If Marysheva-Martinez had critics, she also had supporters.
 
However, her most vocal defender, former town manager Dave Wilbrecht, left his post after a run-in with the council.
 
Wilbrecht is now a town manager in the State of Washington.
 
Before leaving, however, he admonished the council to pay attention to what they had in Marysheva-Martinez
 
Speaking in front of the council last October, Wilbrecht, who also served as Mono County Administrator and the town’s recreation director, said he’d had it with trying to convince skeptical Mammoth residents that Marysheva-Martinez is worth her weight in gold.
 
“We don’t really talk about this very much,” Wilbrecht said near the end of a four-hour marathon Town Council meeting. 
 
“Maybe we should.”
 
Marysheva-Martinez, the assistant town manager, became the town’s budget analyst in the first round of budget crises that affected Mammoth’s crazy-quilt finances in February 2011.
 
She accepted a compensation package of up to $155,000 in salary, along with standard town benefits that raised the cost of the position to roughly $250,000 a year.
 
Going forward without a finance director on the payroll—that position was eliminated 14 months ago—the town’s restructuring plan assumed the need for a permanent director.
 
Marysheva-Martinez led the town’s part of the legal struggles with Mammoth Lakes Land Acquisition and the Ballas Entities group, eventually leading to the $29.5 million settlement over 23 years.
 
In the process, she has endured her share of criticism, many from those who objected to her salary, but Wilbrecht said he was not among the critics.
 
“There’s no doubt in my mind that you wouldn’t be here today, dealing with things in the way you have, without Marianna,” he said to the council.
 
“There has been a lot of concern and criticism about how much money she makes, how much time she spends, and who is she and what is she doing.
 
“But she’s been an invaluable resource for us.
 
“We reduced a writ of mandate from $43 million down to $29.5 million, and over time, that writ of mandate, had we paid it, would have been $60 million over a 10-year period.
 
“If we had financed the $43 million, it would have been close to $85 million or $90 million.
 
“We knew we had problems with the Ballas and Hot Creek deals in the development agreement, and there was at least $20 million sitting on the table with potential lawsuits over those things.
 
“You start adding all these numbers together, it becomes a very, very large deal we were dealing with.
 
“Without Marianna, with her capacities to analyze, deliver, speak to complex issues in simplistic forms—not that she’s simplistic, but we are—I think she’s been very, very helpful and I would defend that as long as I would need to.
 
“She’s been loyal, capable, and I think she’s done a great service for us. I just want to make that clear.”
 
Marysheva-Martinez herself defended her work to the town council last May, reminding the council and the public the kind of mess they had dumped in her lap as soon as she arrived.
 
“Three years ago, when you interviewed me for the interim (town manager position, you thought you had $14 million in the bank but you only had $1 million.
 
“Three years ago, you had a budget before you that did not include $2.7 million in line items.”
 
In the end, insiders said, Marysheva-Martinez may have fixed the grievous bookkeeping errors and brought the tattered budget into clarity, but along the way she also failed to build a political base at the staff level, as well as from the Town Council level.
 

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