After more than a month without a city manager, Santa Clara officials are turning to a former employee to take the lead.
The City Council voted 5-2 Tuesday to name former interim City Manager Rajeev Batra as Santa Clara’s new interim city manager, with Mayor Lisa Gillmor and Councilmember Kathy Watanabe opposed.
His contract, with a pay rate of approximately $214 per hour and a maximum annual salary of about $445,000, is set to run through Jan. 31, 2023 while the city conducts a nationwide search for a permanent replacement for Deanna Santana, who councilmembers fired at the end of February. Batra did not speak at the meeting.
Batra is not eligible for benefits, but will be given mileage reimbursements and the ability to work remotely until the majority of city employees return to City Hall. The city expects to save about $300,000 by not paying benefits, according to Gary Baum, legal counsel for the city on this matter.
“Mr. Batra is familiar with the work culture, issues and dynamics of the city of Santa Clara and is ready to serve from day one,” Councilmember Raj Chahal said. “In addition, Mr. Batra knows most of the city employees and that is a big plus to get started.”
This isn’t Batra’s first time leading Santa Clara as its top executive. He served as interim city manager from April 2016 through March 2017 and was the city’s public works director for roughly 13 years before that. He retired in March 2017.
The City Council approved a severance agreement with Santana on March 22 after voting 4-2 to fire her at the end of February, with Gillmor and Watanabe opposed and Vice Mayor Suds Jain absent.
Steps toward new city manager, city attorney
Along with the decision to approve Batra’s contract, the City Council also voted 6-1 to approve a six-month contract of up to $45,000 with executive recruiting firm Bob Murray & Associates to find a permanent city manager. Watanabe voted against approving the contract.
“I have issues with how this process was done in terms of hiring a recruiter to find a city manager, so I will not be supporting the motion,” Watanabe said.
The contract can be extended for up to six additional months without a cost increase. The same firm is currently searching for the city’s next attorney, according to Baum.
The City Council also approved a contract of up to $300,000 with the law firm Lozano Smith, LLP to provide interim city attorney services. Attorneys from the firm will bill the city between $195 and $300 per hour depending on their positions. The contract ends once the city formally appoints a new city attorney, with a possible three-month transition period.
Santa Clara has been without a city attorney since last September when the City Council voted 5-2 to fire former city attorney Brian Doyle without explaining why. Last April the 49ers refused to meet with him after a tense exchange in which he said the team wanted him to “sleep with the fishes” and questioned the “thugs” team officials work for.
The city launched an investigation into alleged misconduct by Doyle, but refused to say how much the probe cost, when it would be done or whether it would be released. They referred those questions and a records request from San José Spotlight to an outside law firm, which shut it down.
Contact Kate Bradshaw at [email protected] or @bradshk14 on Twitter.