Category Archives: Benicia City Manager

Tinfow receives $300,000 severance package from city of Benicia

Separation agreement reveals Tinfow was  “involuntarily terminated” – public not told why, nor who initiated it

JohnGlidden.com, By John Glidden, September 17, 2020
Lorie Tinfow, Benicia City Manager Apr 2017 – Sep 2020

BENICIA – Benicia has agreed to give more than $300,000 in severance pay to former city manager Lorie Tinfow, who announced her resignation earlier this month, according to a severance agreement obtained by JohnGlidden.com.

Although she officially resigned on Sept. 8, Tinfow actually signed the agreement on Sept. 4, suggesting Tinfow may have been pushed out.

The agreement stipulates Tinfow will receive $303,718 altogether – $259,385 for 13 months of pay, plus $26,287 in unused vacation time, $12,157 in compensation for one-half of her sick leave, and $5,887 for one-half of her unused administrative leave.

Tinfow will remain on the city’s medical, dental and vision plans until October 2021, according to the agreement.

Attempts to reach Tinfow about her departure have been unsuccessful.benicia

Tinfow’s contract with the city states that if she is “involuntarily terminated” she will receive “twelve (12) months of the base salary, plus accrued vacation leave, one-half (1/2) of accrued administrative leave, and one-half (1/2) of accrued sick leave, calculated at the base salary in effect on the effective date of termination.”

According to the contract, involuntary termination can occur through Tinfow’s resignation following a salary, compensation and/or benefit reduction without her consent; a reduction in the powers and authority of the city manager position, or the total elimination of the city manager’s position; or if Tinfow resigns following a formal demand by a majority of the Bencia City Council that she resign.

Tinfow’s contract states that if she voluntarily resigns she is only entitled to accrued vacation leave, one-half (1/2) of accrued administrative leave, one-half (1/2) of accrued sick leave, and not any of her base salary.

Despite indications she faced an involuntary termination, the city council praised Tinfow in a press release announcing her resignation.

“The City Council is grateful for Ms. Tinfow’s service to the City of Benicia and wishes her well in her future endeavors,” the Sept. 8 release said.

In her resignation letter, Tinfow said that she “worked hard over the past three-plus years to make the City of Benicia a stronger, healthier city.”

“I’m especially proud of the work that I have done to complete long-standing projects such as the drainage issues associated with St. Augustine Ct., the Bus Hub transit site, and the ERP which will be completed this fall,” she wrote. “l also introduced new communication tools such as the City of Benicia This Week newsletter, Benicia Town Hall online survey and Priority Based Budgeting and contributed to the Council’s goal of retaining and attracting quality staff by hiring talented individuals and recommending strategies to retain employees.”

Neither Benicia Mayor Elizabeth Patterson, nor the other members of the city council could be immediately reached when asked about Tinfow.

On Sept. 8, the council met in a special closed session to discuss Tinfow’s performance as city manager; a normally routine occurrence. However, following the closed session the council said it had unanimously accepted Tinfow’s resignation and also approved the severance agreement.

Benicia Police Chief Erik Upson was also named “acting” city manager.

A week later on Sept. 15, the council met in closed session, officially appointing Upson as interim city manager. During that meeting, Vice Mayor Christina Strawbridge became the only councilmember to make any reference to the situation when she thanked Upson for “stepping up” to serve as interim city manager.

Longtime resident Constance Beutel expressed concern about Tinfow’s sudden departure from the city.

“As a resident and voter, I am highly distressed that this resignation, without a given explanation, is yet another reason that this city needs to take serious stock of how its equity and diversity issues are handled,” she told the council during the public comment period. “Are there internal biases that drive women and minorities from the city? If so, they are costing us talent, money, and reputation.”

On Sept. 17, the city issued a press release announcing Upson had been appointed interim city manager.

“Mr. Upson will provide the steady hand at the helm as the council begins the recruitment process for a new city manager,” Patterson said in the same release.

As Upson serves as city manager, Benicia police Capt. Mike Greene will serve as interim police chief, officials added.

“I am honored that the Council and the Mayor have asked me to step into this critical role during such a challenging time,” Upson said. “Benicia is an amazing town. I am committed to this community and to our staff. We are in the midst of some very great challenges, but none that cannot be overcome if we come together as one community and lift each other up. We will get through this and, if we take this approach, we will come out stronger on the other side.”

Tinfow came to Benicia in 2017, replacing Brad Kilger who left the position to take a similar job in the city of Martinez.

Prior to Benicia, Tinfow served as city manager of Pacifica, and before that, she was an assistant city manager for Saratoga and Walnut Creek.

Why did Benicia’s City Manager Lorie Tinfow resign suddenly?

By Roger Straw, September 10. 2020
Lorie Tinfow, Benicia City Manager, 2017-2020

Why did City Manager Lorie Tinfow resign suddenly?  Everyone is asking, and I wish I had an answer to that question.

Most of my friends and acquaintances held her in high regard, had no warning of her quick departure, and were shocked and saddened when the news broke.  Her resignation was effective immediately, and gave the impression of a firing or at least an unhappy crashing of relations.

I am aware that not every Benicia City Council member favored her, but I am truly shocked that we lost her at this delicate time in our city’s many struggles, including dealing with the effects of the COVID pandemic.

I take this opportunity to refer you to an excellent new source of Benicia news.  John Glidden, formerly an excellent reporter for the Vallejo Times-Herald, has struck out on his own and is covering Vallejo and Benicia news at JohnGlidden.com.  Here’s a good example of his work – covering a closed-session Benicia City Council performance evaluation of Ms. Tinfow before the sudden resignation.

If you have any information about why Ms. Tinfow resigned, please contact John Glidden via johnglidden.com/contact/ or write to me at rogrmail at gmail dot com.

 

Benicia City Manager resigns, effective immediately

Sad news: Benicia’s City Manager, Lorie Tinfow, has resigned as of today, September 8, 2020.  Benicia Police Chief Erik Upson will serve as Acting City Manager.  Information is sparse – we have only the following press release:

PRESS RELEASE
CITY OF BENICIA
Benicia City Hall
250 East L Street
Benicia, California 94510

Contact:  Erik Upson
Chief of Police/Acting City Manager
(707) 746-4200
eupson@ci.benicia.ca.us

City Manager Tenders Resignation

Benicia, CA (September 8, 2020) — The City of Benicia announced this morning that City Manager Lorie Tinfow has tendered her resignation to the City. The City Council is grateful for Ms. Tinfow’s service to the City of Benicia and wishes her well in her future endeavors.

Mayor Elizabeth Patterson, on behalf of the city council, expressed gratitude for Ms. Tinfow’s service, stating, “Lorie’s three plus years with the City has positioned Benicia well by attracting and developing quality staff, and responding to the COVID-19 pandemic to keep our citizens both safe and primed for a strong recovery.”

Ms. Tinfow will be especially remembered by the community for starting the City of Benicia This Week weekly newsletter. The City’s Chief of Police, Erik Upson, will be serving as the Acting City Manager until the City Council takes further action.

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What does the Benicia City Manager do? By Lorie Tinfow

[Our current Benicia City Manager, Lorie Tinfow, is said by many to be the most highly qualified and best City Manager we’ve ever had.  She has brought stability in staffing, visionary planning and tough financial oversight in these hard times.  I hope she stays for a long, long time!  In today’s email newsletter, City of Benicia This Week, Lorie describes the work she does as our City Manager, published here with permission.  Incredible!  We should ALL be glad we’re not juggling everything she deals with every day.  Read on….  – R.S.]

City of Benicia This Week
read it – watch it – like it – share it

August 10, 2020

Hello Everyone,

Lorie Tinfow, Benicia City Manager

During a recent conversation with the Mayor, she asked if I thought people in Benicia knew what my job as the City Manager actually entailed. I said, “no”. In fact, even my mother didn’t know what I do until about 4 years ago. I was visiting my parents and while there I was sending an email on my smart phone. My mom said, “Honey, what are you doing?” and I responded, “Sending an email to the Police Chief.” She looked puzzled and then said, “You’re in charge of the Police Chief?”  I said, “Yes, and the Fire Chief, the Public Works Director, etc.” She said, “I thought you were a City planner.”

That reaction wasn’t a total surprise. City Managers tend to be in the background and mostly we like it that way. The Council/Manager form of government that Benicia (and most California cities) operates under has the City Council as the face of the City to the community, where it sets the policy direction and the City Manager implements that direction. Because of this structure, community members often don’t know much about what City Managers do. At the Mayor’s suggestion, I decided to share some information here.

One way to think of a City Manager is to compare the City to a company structure-think of me as the CEO of a $90 million non-profit corporation that provides critical services to everyone who lives or has a business in Benicia. Other executive level staff report to me and help me oversee all City operations. The Finance Director could be compared to the Chief Financial Officer, the Assistant City Manager is similar to a Chief Operating Officer and so on. Of course, there are major differences between running a City and running a business so the comparison isn’t perfect-for example, there’s really no private sector version of a Fire Chief or a Police Chief, and private sector businesses are not required to operate with the public sector’s breadth of service delivery, transparency rules, limits on pricing, and required service to all.

I’ve worked in city government for almost 25 years. My experience is broad and that’s necessary to be successful in this position. The work is fast-paced so knowledge and expertise about a variety of areas is important in order to keep the City moving. I’ve overseen many functional areas such as Human Resources, Information Technology, Finance and Economic Development. I’ve been the project manager for the construction of two large scale capital projects (the Saratoga Library and the Walnut Creek Library) and led many community-based efforts around traffic calming, community problem-solving, communication, etc. If you’re interested in knowing more, my resume at the time I was hired is attached here.

One of my primary responsibilities is delivering a balanced budget to the City Council and overseeing the City finances. I also enforce all the laws, ordinances and contracts; hire and supervise directly all the department directors; make staffing decisions related to all employee positions (except the City Attorney); negotiate labor contracts; conduct studies, reorganize work and exercise general supervision over all public buildings, parks and property. In all hiring decisions, I am always looking to recruit top talent from an increasingly small, competitive pool of qualified people. In short, I’m responsible for all the operational elements of the City. And, I serve as the Emergency Services Director during emergencies.

I also provide leadership by supporting and guiding the City Council through establishing its vision and helping to translate that into a work plan. In the City organization, my leadership is often a blend of overseeing the day-to-day activities with keeping an eye on the shifting long-term needs that require change and innovation.

I first learned what a “City Manager” was during an undergraduate class at Stanford taught by two City Managers.  I was already interested in government and this position intrigued me-serving the community and being part of something bigger than myself was attractive. As I continued into graduate school at Harvard and ultimately decided on working in city government, I stayed focused on becoming a City Manager. It’s a very challenging job and a very rewarding one.

So, now you know something more about what I do and how the City is structured.  Let me know if you have any questions.

Thank you for your interest in the City of Benicia This Week!

Lorie Tinfow,
City Manager
CityofBeniciaThisWeek@ci.benicia.ca.us