With several years of the upsetting airport lawsuit, a $30 million judgment, and countless closed sessions over the issue, citizens of Mammoth Lakes just want an even deck to walk on and clarity when it comes to Town government. So the sudden resignation of the Town Manager did not sit well with many. It amounted to one more major change with no explanation.
The discussions that led up to the departure of Manager Marianna Marysheva-Martinez took place behind closed doors. Citizens slammed the Town Council with criticisms of lack of open government. Sierra Wave spoke with Town Attorney Andrew Morris about this.
He said the Brown Act which governs closed sessions “allows personnel matters to be dealt with in closed session. There are good reasons,” said Morris. He said talking in public about employee matters could lead to legal risks and could violate the employee’s right to privacy. Morris said of the Council’s handling of the Town Manager, “There is no conspiracy. They do want to be transparent, but sometimes they can’t be.” He also said, “Personnel matters are often quite sensitive, may involve delicate negotiations, and the affected employees may wish to have some privacy. As a result, it’s usually not a good idea for the Council or staff to discuss personnel matters in detail with the public or the media. The Council isn’t trying to avoid transparency, they’re just trying not to disclose things that are better left confidential.”
We placed calls to all members of the Council. They all returned our calls except Council member Jo Bacon. Our sources tell us that Wood, Eastman and Bacon were supportive of the Town Manager leaving and Lehman and Raimondo wanted her to stay. The question to all of them – what can you tell us about the resignation of Manager Martinez?
Councilman John Eastman said, “Not much. I would say I can’t speak to her resignation.” He said Martinez is a “very bright lady”, and he suspects she will be at work with someone else soon. Eastman maintained that the law prohibits the Council from openly revealing everything about employee matters. He said he is “really excited about moving forward.” Was he ready to appoint Tom Cage as Town Manager? Eastman said he had not made that decision. He said it was someone not on the Town Council who made the proposal.
Mayor Rick Wood had talked to us earlier and said he did not think Manager Martinez was the right person to lead the Town from this point forward. He declined to say more except that the Council is “bound by secrecy.”
Councilman Matthew Lehman said he did not want Martinez to leave. Said Lehman, “I was in favor of her being the manager.” He said the Town will live but that the community has been through a lot. Lehman said Martinez did a fine job. Based on legal advice, Lehman said he could not reveal more.
Since he was out of the area, Councilman Michael Raimondo emailed a response to our question. He said, “The only thing I can share is that I was very supportive of keeping Marianna as our town manager and personally feel it is a big loss to the community losing her. I think she did a great job!”
Town Attorney Morris did say if Ms. Martinez wanted to talk about her situation, she could. However, she has not responded to our phone calls or emails.