Garcia’s exit pact, comments and last e-mail

Space was very tight in today’s paper, so our story about changes in City Hall leadership was cut pretty short. Keep reading for additional information on Human Resources Director Dianna Garcia’s abrupt exit, including comments from her and City Manager Bob Deis that didn’t make it into the paper and the last e-mail she sent city officials yesterday:

Here is the separation agreement the City Council approved in closed session last night. Under the plan, Garcia will no longer report to work but will be paid through May 13.

•Reached late last night for comment, Garcia said she did not offer her resignation but was not asked to resign either. She said the exit arrangement came through discussions with Deis as she considered her role and the direction the city was going with labor negotiations.

“(Deis and I) started having some very candid conversations about how to proceed,” she said.

When interim City Manager Kevin O’Rourke hired an outside labor negotiator earlier this year, she said she asked herself whether that meant city leaders did not want her negotiating. Garcia called her role in recent years unusual – that of being a negotiator at the table asking workers to give up pay and benefits and issuing layoff notices, but also being an HR director who needed to support city employees.

Garcia said that as the city’s labor disputes and fiscal crisis have grown more intense, and developments in her personal life have competed for attention (she’s getting married), she isn’t sure she’s as committed as the job demands.

“Bob needs somebody completely committed and, for me, I didn’t feel like I could take it all the way,” she said. “Quite frankly, it’s a breath of fresh air…. I don’t think Bob needs somebody at the helm who would be distracted. Bob made it easy for me to have a soft landing.”

Asked why the sense of urgency regarding her exit. “I need to get out of the way,” she said. “I’m not the lead anymore.” Per her severance agreement, she’ll be available to help with outstanding issues, such as labor arbitration and the pending fire and police union lawsuits.

•Said Deis of Garcia’s exit: “She came to me and expressed an interest in getting off the city treadmill. We discussed how that might be and under what conditions.”

He said her arrangment is not unusual. “I left Sonoma County under a settlement agreement, and I wasn’t asked to leave.”

Asked why language in the agreement suggested a purposely abrupt exit, he replied: “As soon as you announce you’re leaving, you become inneffective,” referring to the city’s ongoing labor dispute and upcoming negotiations. “It’s not something that has to be construed as negative.”

•Garcia sent the following e-mail to the city’s executive team at 5:11 p.m. yesterday after the council approved her exit agreement:

I am very pleased to announce that, through Bob’s leadership and assistance, the City Council has approved a separation agreement for me.  That’s correct – separation.
Most of you know the challenges that HR, and specifically I  (this is MY message after all) have faced over the last few years. I am very proud to have been a part of the changes that have taken place in this City, working with all of you, the employee groups, and the employees in facing these challenges.  However, we still have a long way to go – and the intensity will likely amp up. Bob, and this City, deserve a team totally committed to maintain a full court press.  Though I love the challenge – its time for the City and me to make a change.
The separation agreement will allow me to shift my focus while still supporting the City to ensure an orderly transition. The City will of course be focused on the budget – I’ll be focused on planning a wedding. Yes, I’m getting married! and I want to actually have a life – with Michael (hubby to be), my kids, and my friends and family. Starting today.
As Bob (Hope, not Deis) would say – thanks for the memories! And Happy Holidays

Dianna R. Garcia
Director, Human Resources
City of Stockton
(209) 937 – 8344
(209) 937 – 8258 FAX

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