UPDATED NOV. 18, 2015, 12:47 P.M.
By DONNA BETH WEILENMAN
MARTINEZ, Calif. – Rob Braulik, who was hired Feb. 4 as the latest Martinez city manager, has resigned, Mayor Rob Schroder said Tuesday, Nov. 17, in a public statement. Braulik’s last day is Dec. 31.
Schroder said Braulik announced he would be leaving to pursue “private sector opportunities.”
Braulik’s statement said: “This is something I have been thinking about for some time. I have enjoyed my time serving the public in a variety of communities; it has been rewarding work, work I will miss going forward. However, I look forward to the next chapter and providing community service in other ways.”
Vice Mayor Mark Ross said Braulik told the Martinez City Council of his decision Friday, Nov. 12.
Earlier in November, several residents who requested anonymity told the Tribune Braulik’s relationship with the city was volatile, and hinted that the council’s closed-door review of the city manager’s performance would not be a routine evaluation. Some suggested Braulik was preparing to leave.
Under California’s Ralph M. Brown Act, the law governing public access to local governmental meetings, municipalities may meet in closed sessions to discuss or decide labor and personnel matters.
When asked to comment on the residents’ inquiries, Braulik responded late Nov. 10 by email: “You are mistaken. There are no facts to support your query.”
Mayor Schroder said Tuesday, Nov. 17: “This is a personnel matter, so what I can tell you is very limited.” In addition, he said, the council hasn’t decided the next steps it would take.
Schroder said Braulik submitted his resignation to him Friday, and the pair crafted the city’s announcement. “I called each member of the City Council that evening to advise them of the resignation,” he said.
He said Braulik’s notice gives the city an opportunity “to continue on with city business, making progress on capital improvements, etc., and for the council to decide what direction we want to go with finding a new city manager.”
Schroder said Martinez has accomplished much in the seven months Braulik has been city manager.
Among the progress has been proceeding with updating the General Plan, approving more than $2.1 million in street and road improvements, developing and updating a Martinez Strategic Plan for the city’s future, hiring Manjit Sappal as police chief, increasing the city’s use of technology in many of its functions and making “great strides in retrofitting most of the URM (unreinforced masonry) buildings in town.”
While the council looks for Braulik’s successor, he said, “City staff will continue to move things forward.”
Meanwhile, he said, the city is in good financial shape, in part because the City spends prudently. “It is the job of the City Council to set policies that are then carried out by city staff,” he said, acknowledging that some residents won’t be happy with those decisions.
“It is the job of the City Council to allocate those limited resources.”
Schroder said the council will meet soon to initiate steps to find the next Martinez city manager. Ross said those meetings would start Wednesday, Nov. 18.
Braulik was hired as the permanent successor to Phil Vince, who quit without notice in October 2013, after meeting with the Martinez City Council in two closed-session meetings, including one for a performance evaluation.
Braulik’s annual salary at his hiring was said to be $200,000, and his appointment was supported unanimously by the City Council.
During the years between Vince’s departure and Braulik’s hiring, Economic Development Director Anna Gwyn Simpson, former City Manager Jim Jakel and the current assistant city manager, Alan Shear, took turns as interim city managers.
Braulik was chosen from an initial field of 41 that was narrowed to six. At the time of his hiring, council members praised his expertise in economic development as well as his perspective on working in Martinez.
He has spent 30 years in public sector positions, according to Schroder’s statement. For three years, Braulik was the town manager of Ross, in Marin County. He has also been in management positions in Benicia, Fairfield and Palo Alto.
The former president of the California International Association for City-County Management Association Board of Directors, Braulik is a recipient of the John H. Nail Award from the League of California Cities, described by the League as a prestigious honor.
Vince, who previously had been Moraga’s town manager and was hired in Martinez in May 2008 for $194,000 plus a $500 a month car allowance, succeeded Don Blubaugh, who resigned in January 2008.
Blubaugh, a former Walnut Creek city manager, came out of a five-year retirement in 2006 to fill in on an interim basis after City Manager June Catalano was hired by Pleasant Hill. He accepted the Martinez city manager’s position and a two-year contract in 2007.
At the time, Blubaugh’s salary for his first year was reported to be $260,000 salary for the first year of his contract, and was to rise to $265,000 in 2009. It was described at the time as the highest in the county for city manager.
Blubaugh resigned before the end of that contract.
After Schroder announced Braulik’s resignation, Ross said the city manager only told the council he had found a job in the private sector. “I don’t know what it is,” Ross said.
Ross quipped that he hoped the next city manager would be “someone cheap and excellent.” On a more serious note, he said, “We always want someone who is energetic and brings to the table problem solving abilities.”
The next city manager should be able to work “with a diverse and well-resourced town,” he said. “We’ve got things that need taking care of, like any town.”
Councilwoman AnaMarie Avila Farias said she learned of Braulik’s departure Nov. 13 from Mayor Schroder. Braulik brought “a high level of energy” to Martinez, she said.
As for his successor, she said: “I am hopeful we can find someone who embraces the diversity of our community and can help with economic development.” The latter is a key point if Martinez is to continue to provide the services residents want and need, she said.
Avila Farias said she would look for a candidate that not only was suitable for a “small city with a close-knit community” but also who has a progressive outlook.
Martinez has an advantage in the search, she said. “We have the template,” and the description of the position of city manager was revised when the search went out for Braulik, Avila Farias said.
Because of that, she said, the city could launch its new search quickly, and might be interviewing candidates by February.
She said filling the city manager’s post is “critical to the stability of the city,” and added: “There is no room for delay.”
Requests were made of Councilmembers Lara DeLaney and Debbie McKillop. However, they did not respond by press time.
Ross said the council is likely to hire a professional recruiter, such as Bob Murray and Associates of Roseville that found Braulik, to seek out the next city manager. In fact, the council may retain the same company, because most provide discounts if their candidates do not last at the job for a specified period.
Ross wouldn’t speculate how Braulik’s period as city manager would be viewed.
“The day he came in, he had that Social Security issue drop on his lap,” he said.
California Public Employees Retirement System officials have said an audit shows that 92 Martinez employees must start paying into Social Security, and the city would need to match that amount, to the tune of $419,000 to $420,000 each year.
The city has considered the employees part of a joint facilities agency formed between Martinez and Pleasant Hill. CalPERS Office of Audit Services is contending the workers are city employees. Assistant City Manager Alan Shear said last month Martinez may appeal that contention.
Ross said it’s not unusual for an employee to decide to leave after a short period. “Each new employee fits well, or finds something else,” he said.