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Richmond City Manager Gone?
November 21, 1997

Council signaled intent to let Johnson go at closed session

Suzanne Espinosa Solis, Chronicle Staff Writer Friday, November 21, 1997 

Richmond City Manager Floyd Johnson knew something was wrong when the City Council scheduled his annual performance evaluation two months in advance -- then told him to leave the session. 

Exactly what the nine-member Richmond City Council did during Wednesday's 1 a.m. private session depends upon who is explaining the action. 

Some say the council voted 5 to 4 not to renew Johnson's contract, which expires January 9. Others say the council merely declared its intent not to renew Johnson's $123,165-a-year contract. 

Either way, it was bad news for Johnson, a former administrator of Broward County in Florida who was hired by the council in 1993 for the city's top executive slot. 

``There are a lot of different opinions,'' said acting City Attorney Bill Bonnell. ``The city clerk's record shows the council determined it would not renew (Johnson's) contract. But there's a question as to whether they adopted a resolution.'' 

The council has called a special session for 5 p.m. today to clarify its action and begin the hunt for a new city manager. 

The news has devastated many of Johnson's staff. 

``It's a big loss for the city,'' said Pat Jones, Johnson's assistant, who said Johnson was the first city manager to appoint women to key management positions. ``It leaves Richmond in limbo at a time when things appeared to be coming together.'' 

Questions remained about why some council members wanted Johnson out. 

``I don't want to get into detail,'' said Councilman Tom Butt, one of five members who wanted to get rid of Johnson. ``It's clear a majority of the City Council felt like, I guess, they wanted to get a different city manager.'' 

Without offering details, Mayor Rosemary Corbin described the council majority's reasons for ousting Johnson as ``petty and personal.'' 

``I think he's a good city manager,'' she said. 

Corbin said her understanding was that council members Butt, Nathaniel Bates, Alex Evans, Richard Griffin and Donna Powers voted not to renew Johnson's contract. After the closed session, Corbin announced the decision in open session -- and none of the other eight council members objected to her characterization. 

Johnson said the council's vote was a surprise to him and that he hasn't been given a reason for his dismissal. He said his previous three annual evaluations had all been favorable. 

``Last year's was not necessarily one of the best -- it didn't result in any (pay) increase,'' he said. ``But in the year prior to that, the evaluation, I think, was excellent. It resulted in a substantial increase, 13 percent.'' 

Corbin suggested that one reason for Johnson's unpopularity with some city workers was his promotion of women to the posts of finance director, human resources director and public housing director. 

``We never had an adequate percentage of women in management before Floyd came,'' Corbin said. ``And there were complaints by some men who were passed over.'' 

Corbin and others said Johnson's strength as a manager was evident when, shortly after he took over, he called crime a concern for all departments, not just the police. 

``He's very good at rallying the city to support a cause,'' Jones said.