Planning director placed on leave

cpride@losbanosenterprise.comJuly 24, 2013 

The Los Banos Planning Department has been operating without its leader for two weeks.

City Manager Steve Carrigan this week confirmed that he has placed Community Development Director Paula Fitzgerald on paid administrative leave effective July 8, the day she returned from a weeklong vacation coinciding with the Fourth of July holiday.

Carrigan said it is a "personnel matter" that he cannot discuss.

He said Assistant Planner Stacy Elms has taken over Fitzgerald's duties.

The city is expecting the Planning Department to see a lot of activity in the coming months because of what it believes is a rebounding economy. City officials predict 100 residential building permits in the next year and an increase in commercial development. Only one residential building permit was pulled in the previous five years.

Carrigan said he does not expect Fitzgerald's absence to affect the number of projects the Planning Department is able to process.

"(Elms) has a capable planning background," Carrigan said. "(And) we're going to move on this very quickly. I don't see this dragging out."

Carrigan said there are a couple of questions that need to be answered before a decision on Fitzgerald's employment can be made.

Fitzgerald was hired as Los Banos planning director in 2008. Her title changed to community development director after redevelopment agencies were eliminated by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2012. The Planning Department took on some of the responsibilities of the RDA, such as affordable housing.

During her tenure, Fitzgerald oversaw zoning changes and an update of the Los Banos housing element in its general plan and assisted with improvements to the city's design standards.

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