By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer
PASADENA, CALIF. — Seven years after he left Ohio, a former Toledo city manager is facing unemployment.
Pasadena City Manager Phil Hawkey, whose four years in Toledo were marked by controversy, will not be allowed to serve out the remainder of his contract, the city’s council decided Monday.
The seven-member council voted 4-2, with one council member absent, to begin the search for a new city manager. The vote was taken less than three weeks after council voted 4-3 to keep Mr. Hawkey until his current contract expired in 1999.
“I feel totally ambushed,” Mr. Hawkey, 51, said at the meeting, according to the Pasadena Star-News. “I do believe my legal rights have been violated.”
Mr. Hawkey arrived in Toledo in 1986 after serving as deputy city manager of Cincinnati. He arrived with a reputation as an extremely knowledgeable public administrator, but soon began warring with many powerful, entrenched politicians in Toledo.
In his most controversial move, Mr. Hawkey engineered the city’s secret plan to spend $14.35 million to buy about 1,200 acres of land in Monclova and Springfield townships. The idea was to boost Toledo’s tax base, but it ended in a failed attempt to annex the land.
Two years after Mr. Hawkey’s departure, Toledo voters amended the city’s charter to switch from a city-manager to a strong-mayor form of government.
In October, Pasadena organized a charter-reform commission aimed at rethinking the way the city’s government is organized.
Monday’s vote authorized a search to begin next month for a new city manager. Mr. Hawkey will retain his job until his replacement is found.
In the motion announcing the search, the council said the decision was “for reasons having to do with his performance evaluation.”
Larry Wilson, editor of the Star-News, said Mr. Hawkey’s dismissal isn’t easy to explain.
“The four council members all have different reasons for being against him,” he said. “One believes he is not pro-business enough. Another thinks he’s too pro-business and pro-development.”
In April, council voted to extend Mr. Hawkey’s contract to October, 1999, by a 5-2 vote. But in May, a new councilman, Sid Tyler, took office, replacing a pro-Hawkey vote.
When council voted on Nov. 22 whether to let Mr. Hawkey complete his term, one council member, Joyce Streator, changed her mind from the April vote, but Mr. Hawkey still eked out a 4-3 victory with Mr. Tyler’s support.
But Monday, Mr. Tyler made the motion resulting in the vote on the city manager’s future. Mr. Tyler voted against him, and Mr. Hawkey was on the losing end. Mr. Tyler had no comment yesterday.
During his seven years in the position, Mr. Hawkey has faced opposition from Pasadena city leaders on a variety of issues, including not informing city council when the then-police chief was under investigation by the district attorney’s office.
His initial hiring in Pasadena was opposed by some African-Americans who said Mr. Hawkey discriminated against minorities in his hiring and firing practices while in Toledo.
The Rev. Floyd Rose flew from Ohio to Pasadena during the hiring process to make a presentation on what he called Mr. Hawkey’s racially discriminatory acts.
Mr. Hawkey is paid $148,000 a year and is in charge of 1,800 city employees. He said the council’s move is a betrayal.
“I pledged to confront the difficult issues,” Mr. Hawkey told the Pasadena council Monday. “I passed up opportunities.
“I didn’t pursue opportunities that were made available to me, thinking I had made a commitment to the city council,” he said.
Rick Cole, a former Pasadena mayor who voted against hiring Mr. Hawkey when he was a councilman in 1991, applauded his performance the last seven years.
Pasadena fared well in Southern California’s economic downturn in the early 1990s, and the city has won numerous national awards for workforce diversity and urban planning, he said.
“It’s quite an extraordinary record,” he said.
Mr. Hawkey was unavailable for comment.