WeHo bends rules to fix ‘mess’ at Sunset billboard program

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West Hollywood City Council has cleared the way for former Assistant City Manager Oscar Delgado to return to work at City Hall on a contract basis even though he just retired last month.

In a 4-1 vote, Council approved an exemption to the 180-day waiting period required of public agencies by California law before they can re-employ retirees. City Hall had requested the exemption to allow Delgado to resume his work as the executive team leader and lead negotiator for the Sunset Arts & Advertising Program (SAAP).

Known for its lengthy and highly complex screening process, the program was developed in 2019 to facilitate new digital off-site advertising signage and billboards on Sunset Boulevard. According to the staff report, SAAP has approved only six of the 27 projects it awarded, while “approximately half” of the 27 are still in the approval process. That’s twice as many projects in the approval process as there were when Delgado retired in early September.

“Due to the complicated nature and potential community impacts of the digital billboard program, each project requires extensive review and negotiation,” the report reads. “Mr. Delgado is uniquely qualified to provide executive management of the review and negotiation process for the projects currently in the approval process due to his institutional knowledge, experience, and extensive involvement.”

Councilmember Lauren Meister, the lone “no” vote on the item, felt the job should have been handled by other senior staff members — the deputy city manager, the new community development director, the economic development director and the property development manager.

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“I just feel that a combination of those very skilled people should be able to pick up where Oscar left off, and my feeling is if that’s not possible, then we have a succession problem,” Meister said. “There was plenty of notice of Oscar’s retirement where people could have stepped in and figured it out.”

Comments made by Councilmember John Heilman, who supported Delgado’s re-hiring, suggest the program is in disarray.

“I believe consistency is really important, too, and I understand, Councilmember Meister, your position absolutely,” Heilman said. “This program, I’ve heard so much from applicants and complaints like, ‘this person left and now it’s a mess,’ and it just reinforces that having consistency is going to create a smoother transition.”

A submission to WEHOville’s Dear WeHo section this week by an anonymous writer balked at the the idea of re-hiring Delgado.

“Even in the wake of the recent incident with the nefarious selection of the city’s new community development director with a panel that consisted of developer representatives, the city continues to push an agenda that serves it’s (sic) own nepotistic needs and proves to be a conflict of interest,” the letter read. “Delgado has been known to have been responsible for making numerous poor decisions that serve his own, and or certain developer agendas, and has demonstrated he is keen on allowing certain developers to have their way in the city.”

Delgado’s work will be limited to 960 hours per fiscal year, or roughly 10 hours per week. He will be paid hourly with no additional benefits. How much he stands to make per hour has not been made public.

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JF1
JF1
8 months ago

It’s not just the process that’s a mess….this city has been a mess since the last election. We need to correct that with the next election.

Josh Kurpies
Josh Kurpies
8 months ago

Leave it to WeHoVille to publish unfounded accusations from an anonymous source. Oscar has served this community for over 20 years and I can’t imagine a smarter, more likable, more experienced, and more respected public servant with such a “can do” attitude and willingness to find solutions to problems. I understand CM Meister’s concerns, but I’m certain even she’d tell you that her opposition has nothing to do with Oscar’s character and abilities.

Board Monitor
Board Monitor
8 months ago
Reply to  Josh Kurpies

The policy was developed to protect double dipping. Oscar Delgado chose to retire, he had an employment contract.

Josh Kurpies
Josh Kurpies
8 months ago
Reply to  Board Monitor

This is not double-dipping. This is a well established, highly regulated option available to public agencies and retirees that is quite common and can save the City money in the long term,

Larry Block
Admin
8 months ago
Reply to  Josh Kurpies

No savings, the city pays the pension and the salary, instead of the employee just paying into the pension. Funny how you switch sides as you supported the 180 day rule when your ‘colleagues’ enacted it.

WehoQueen
WehoQueen
8 months ago
Reply to  Josh Kurpies

Why do I get the feeling this whole, “I’m retiring, but don’t worry, you’ll beg to have me back for lots more money, to save everything I did wrong in the first place”, was somehow all planned, perhaps a few years ago. Why do I get that feeling Josh K.? If Oscar was so wonderful, how come he left such a mess?

Josh Kurpies
Josh Kurpies
8 months ago
Reply to  WehoQueen

it wouldn’t surprise me at all if this was planned in advance as these sorts of agreements are common, legal, and a win-win for the City and employee. The primary benefit of bringing back a retiree on a contract basis is that it can provide the agency with flexibility and access to experienced talent without the long-term financial commitment associated with a full-time, permanent employee.

Larry Block
Admin
8 months ago
Reply to  Josh Kurpies

Josh, then why did Horvath, Heilman, and Duran make the 180 day rule? The rule was enacted so an employee has a choice between their pension and their salary. Somehow Oscar gets both. Love the guy but get rid of the rule if they are going to not live up to the reasoning and ethical ideals in which the law was crafted.

Alan Strasburg
Alan Strasburg
8 months ago

This is a complete failure of leadership and planning on the part of city manager David Wilson. No one is indispensable in any organization. The suggestion that institutional knowledge is worth 960 hours a year amounts to an almost criminal fleecing of the public purse. Lauren Meister is often the lone voice of common sense and asking tough questions.

JF1
JF1
8 months ago
Reply to  Alan Strasburg

So true. Heilman used to be another that had common sense.

Hubris
Hubris
8 months ago

From its inception, the Sunset Billboard program was a disaster waiting to happen. Hubris managed by a former. parking manager was not the key. Again, City lacks foresight.

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