City manager to have his first review since '08

jsmith@mercedsunstar.comJanuary 30, 2013 

The Merced City Council will hold a special closed session meeting Saturday to evaluate the performance of City Manager John Bramble, as well as discuss its long-running legal battle with several major oil companies.

The evaluation of the city manager started several months ago, after it had come to the council's attention the process hadn't been conducted since his hiring in 2008.

"The council dropped the ball in the past," said Bill Blake, who's served on the council for more than three years. "It's nobody else's fault. It's our charter to review the manager, and we failed."

The council also has the authority to conduct a performance review of City Attorney Greg Diaz, who was last reviewed in 2004.

"It's a systemic issue," Blake said. "We failed to evaluate any of our charter officers in the past."

Councilman Mike Murphy said reviewing the city manager's performance was one of the reasons he ran for office in 2011.

"I can't speak to why he wasn't evaluated before I joined the council," he said. "But I have every intention of making sure the city manger is evaluated on an annual basis as long as I'm a council member."

From here on out, Blake said, the council plans to perform regular evaluations. "We've pledged to continue to evaluate our charter employees on a yearly basis."

The city started Bramble's evaluation in a closed session meeting months ago. His annual salary is $171,653.

At the meeting, the council also will discuss ongoing litigation concerning cancer-linked, petroleum-based chemicals that leaked into city groundwater.

In February, a jury awarded the city $859,000 from Shell Oil Co., $1.9 million from Chevron Corp. and $200,000 from Exxon Mobil Corp.

The city's lawsuit argued that the oil companies were responsible for selling fuel to gas stations that contained methyl tertiary butyl ether, or MTBE, which leaked into the ground.

The closed-session meeting will be held at 9 a.m. at the Civic Center at 678 W. Main St.

Reporter Joshua Emerson Smith can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or

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