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Cites health issues; Marysheva-Martinez new boss
The axe fell on Town Manager Dave Wilbrecht Wednesday evening in circumstances cloaked in mystery.
Following a closed Town Council meeting that followed its regularly scheduled Feb. 6 meeting, the town announced that Wilbrecht resigned his position, but offered no explanation as to the reasons why the former Mono County Administrative Officer and Mammoth Parks director quit.
Citing laws protecting personnel matters from public view, the new permanent Town Manager, Marianna Marysheva-Martinez, also declined to discuss the specifics of Wilbrecht’s departure.
However, off-the-record interviews with council members and town staff indicated that Wilbrecht himself might have brought the axe down, arguing health concerns usually associated with job burnout.
It was not so simple, though.
In leaving, Wilbrecht sought a severance package of up to $150,000, town officials said, leaving the members of the council not only surprised by the resignation, but also confused as to how to proceed in the situation.
Ultimately, the council voted 4-1 to accept Wilbrecht’s resignation and to give him the severance package.
The councilman who voted against the deal was attorney Rick Wood, who argued that severance compensation is due for employees who are laid off for non-disciplinary reasons (budget, for example), or other extraordinary factors.
Even among those who voted for the resignation/compensation package, however, every council member expressed surprise that it happened at all.
Wilbrecht did not attend either the closed session meeting or the regular council meeting.
He recently signed a new contract with the Town of Mammoth Lakes, so when his email announcing his intention to look for another job reached the eyes of the town council members the week of Jan. 23, they said they were a little surprised.
After giving the council a heads-up on imminent departures such as town planner Ellen Clark, Wilbrecht wrote that he, too, was looking for a new job.
“Yeah, I’d say I was surprised by that,” said Mayor Matthew Lehman shortly after the meeting broke up. “I really can’t tell you why this happened. I wish I could. We’d just signed a big contract with him.
“But the bottom line is that he resigned. He just wanted to move on. He sent us a letter expressing some concerns. It was initiated by Dave.”
Wood also declined to be specific, saying only, “I was very surprised.”
“Really, the only thing I can say about that is that public employees tend to value job security more than most people,” said one cryptic council member, who asked for anonymity out of concern for breaking the laws covering closed sessions.
Other council members said there was another factor in the mix, and that was what to do with two senior managers (Wilbrecht and Marysheva-Martinez) who were running a town with severe budget constraints and dwindling numbers of staff.
The final move by the council was to appoint Marysheva-Martinez as Town Manager, but offer her no raise above what she drew as assistant town manager.
Even that did not sail through.
With councilman John Eastman voting “no” on the appointment, the council made the deal 4-1.
As in the Wilbrecht case, the council offered no explanation for its action.