In a special meeting earlier today, the Milpitas City Council voted 3-2 not to renew the contract of City Manager Steve McHarris.
After nearly three hours of deliberation in closed session, Council came back to the dais where Mayor Carmen Montano announced the vote.
“We have come to a deliberation. We were in closed session, and so the deliberation is not taking any action to reappoint the city manager,” said Mayor Montano.
Mayor Montano, Vice Mayor Evelyn Chua, and Councilmember Garry Barbadillo voted not to reappoint, while Councilmembers Anthony Phan and Hon Lien voted to keep McHarris onboard.
In the last six years, the City of Milpitas has had three different City Managers, as well as two Interim City Managers.
In 2018, McHarris left his job as a planning official with the City of San Jose to serve as Deputy City Manager under Julie Edmonds-Mares, who was Milpitas’ City Manager at the time.
Milpitas was not new territory for McHarris. He had served as Planning and Neighborhood Services Director here for a few years, up until 2015. During that time, he had worked under Milpitas City Manager Tom Williams. McHarris left the City of Milpitas in 2015, shortly after filing a workplace complaint against Williams, alleging various instances of abusive behavior. Williams would go on to resign from his position as City Manager in 2017, after the city alleged that he had misappropriated funds.
After Williams left, former Milpitas Police Chief Steve Pangelinan came in as Interim City Manager. And in early 2018, after Pangelinan’s retirement, Dianne Thompson (a former City Manager who had been fired from Arroyo Grande) briefly filled the position.
Edmonds-Mares was appointed as Milpitas’ next City Manager in January of 2018, but in May of 2019, she resigned with no explanation. Sources say that she might have been forced out of her position by the Council.
After Edmonds-Mares resigned as City Manager in 2019, McHarris assumed the role of Interim City Manager. He became the official City Manager in 2020 and has served in that role ever since.
McHarris sent an email out to City staff earlier today, filling them in on Council’s decision. In his email, which was obtained by The Beat, he wrote:
At this morning’s closed session, the Milpitas City Council decided to vote against my reappointment as your City Manager for the term starting June 2023. This means that my current employment with the City of Milpitas will expire on June 3. The City Council provided no further communication. Although this is not the outcome I hoped for, I believe I am leaving the City in a much better place than when I arrived in 2018. I am truly grateful for the privilege of working by the side of so many talented and dedicated individuals in our City organization. Some of you know me more than others but I want each of you to know that whether you are a long-term employee or just recently hired, I have always kept your professional goals, aspirations, and success at the forefront in growing our City organization, and in providing best-in-class service to the greater Milpitas community. In reflecting on all the days, evenings, and weekends spent in Milpitas, it has been my second home and I am really going to miss our day-to-day encounters.
In an interview with The Beat, Councilmember Hon Lien spoke of how shocked she was that the majority of the City Council voted the way they did:
“We have a City Manager here who already knows the job, who has been working here, who we know we can count on in leading the city,” said Lien. “Now, if a new City Manager comes in, we’re going to have a gap…I don’t know how soon we can get another City Manager.”
She added, “Right now, I feel like the City has no trust in the Council.”
The Beat reached out to other Councilmembers, but they declined to comment on this story.
It is not yet clear whether or not McHarris will serve out the rest of his contract until June 3, or if he will exit the position sooner.
The Beat will provide updates to this story as they arise.
“In an interview with The Beat, Councilmember Hon Lien spoke of how shocked she was that the majority of the City Council voted the way they did.” I am also shocked. Steve McHarris has guided our city through 3 years of COVID while helping us recover from years of losing good people (including many Director-level folks), and produced good results and effective performance from staff despite a dysfunctional Council.
When sworn in on Dec. 20, 2022, newly elected Mayor Montano said this: “We want to move the city forward with a new leadership style that is collaborative and, in its core values, is all about integrity, transparency, selflessness, and pride in Milpitas.” We have a lot of serious problems to address, and getting rid of the City Manager will make solutions even harder to implement. Unless a proper explanation is offered for why McHarris is being fired, I am left to wonder if the Council is still dysfunctional.
This has shaken my confidence in our new council. They owe us an explanation. We are one of the few city’s in the state who actually passed a housing element. The morale, until this decision was made, in our city departments was high. The budgets especially after the challenges with COVID, are in much better shape in most cities. The city staff under Mcharris was doing well.. The Mayor and Councilperson Chua owe us an explanation as to why we need a change right now. Where is the transparency and collaboration the Mayor promised. I really question the ability of this council to lead us out of our Covid challenges after this decision.
I agree with both Robert Means and Joseph Weinstein. Two candidates that voted not to keep Steve McHarris as our City Manager of Milpitas, are candidates I voted for. It is starting to feel like Dysfunctional City Council Part 2. I didn’t much enjoy Part 1. I too felt that Steve McHarris did an awesome job during a very difficult time and question why the mayor and 2 council members feel that we can afford to let a valuable asset go, when we have much still needed done, as we rebuild post pandemic.
I am hoping that the residents of Milpitas will be provided with the transparency that we were promised during the candidates’ campaign speeches. Or were they just empty words to convince the residents to vote for them? Only time will tell, but trust me, the clock is ticking and I have a very good memory and will remember this when re-election time rolls around.
November brought hope of fulfilled campaign promises with our candidates for city hall all promising transparency, cooperation, mutual respect, and a fresh start with a new mayor and two new council members. Fast-forward a mere forty plus days into the city council being sworn in to already find broken campaign promises. Milpitas was moving in a positive direction with Steve McHarris as city manager. City council owes the voters an explanation as to how this move is positive for our city. With this type of a divisive start and lack of transparency this early, this city council might prove to be as dysfunctional as the one we’ve had for the last several years.
Thom, why do you say that? At what specifically does the Mayor suck?
Why not? Steve is so great!
Thom, if you don’t like how the mayor is leading our city, you can vote her out in less than 2 years from now. It would have been nice if you had expressed what you did not like about Montano, as a few of us did. I have to admit I am disappointed in how Montano is leading the city council. I do know if this continues, I will not vote to re-elect her for another term.