Chris Jordan gets $183,821 to resign as Los Altos City Manager

Los Altos City Manager Chris Jordan

BY KYLE MARTIN
Daily Post Staff Writer

Los Altos City Manager Chris Jordan announced Wednesday (Nov. 18) he is resigning after four years of leading the city, but he isn’t going voluntarily.

The city released on Friday a separation agreement with Jordan that shows the city will pay him a severance payment of $183,821, or nine-month’s of his $245,095 annual salary.

The purpose of a separation agreement is to pay a terminated employee a premium in exchange for their promise that they won’t bring a lawsuit against the city. Jordan’s familiar with such agreements. When he left his previous job as city manager in West Linn, Ore., he got a separation agreement that paid him $141,652.

Jordan declined to be interviewed, referring a reporter to a city press release that included a quote from him.

“The Los Altos community is fortunate to have some of the most dedicated, community-minded individuals I have met during my public service career,” Jordan wrote in the release. “I thank them for their support of me, my family, and the community.”

The release did not say what Jordan, 57, planned to do next in his career. Mayor Jan Pepper said the council will vote on approving the separation agreement at next Tuesday’s council meeting.

Under his contract, Jordan is owed a lump sum of six months salary, or $122,548, so the nine-month payment is more than what the city had to pay him. Jordan is owed the cash value of any of his accrued paid leave balances, according to his contract. He is also required to repay a home loan he received from the city. The city allowed him to borrow as much as $2 million.

Why council decided to oust Jordan wasn’t disclosed, but he wasn’t afraid to defy council members.

Last year, Jordan ignored a majority council decision over where council meetings should be held. Council meetings are normally held in city hall’s chambers, but were moved to the Los Altos Youth Center after Bruins complained that the chambers were triggering her asthma.

Residents complained that the youth center is hot and lacks the proper equipment to livestream the meetings. The council voted 4-1 to move back to chambers, but Jordan failed to follow through.

The last straw might have been last month when Jordan asked council members to choose which design they liked for a new Emergency Operations Center, but he wouldn’t tell them how much each option cost.

Councilwomen Jeannie Bruins and Anita Enander said they were unhappy the funding discussion would be separated from the design discussion.

Jonathan Weinberg, who was elected to council on Nov. 3, said he was “disappointed” to see Jordan leave. He said he would have rather the council waited to let the new council decide whether to keep Jordan in his position.

“As a commissioner on the Parks and Recreation Commission since about 2015-16, I’ve had dealings with Chris on and off from there and I’ve watched from afar,” Weinberg said. “I always thought that he was professional, that he was diligent, that he was responsive.”

Sally Meadows, who was also elected Nov. 3, said she was surprised by the news of Jordan’s departure.

“I had not expected to see that,” Meadows said. “I certainly appreciate what he’s done for the city over the last four years.”

Search begins

Jordan’s last day will be Dec. 5. Deputy City Manager Jon Maginot will take over as acting city manager effective Dec. 6, while council conducts a search for Jordan’s replacement.

“We do want someone with experience, ideally experience with affordable housing issues, because that’s what we’ll be dealing with heavily over the next decade,” Meadows said. “I don’t want a ‘yes’ person. I want to hear a variety of options and the pros and cons of each.”

And as far as Jordan’s past work history goes, Meadows said she didn’t think Jordan was particularly controversial.

“I think he got more beat up over the years, some by council and some by residents,” Meadows said and added “it got harder for him to do the job.”

Vice Mayor Neysa Fligor did not return a request for comment on the city manager’s resignation, nor did councilwomen Enander, Bruins or Lynette Lee Eng.

16 Comments

  1. Now we have a chance to get the city on track with new leadership. I hope the new council hires a superstar and pays whatever is necessary to get him/her — after doing thorough reference checks! Under the last two city managers, we haven’t been able to get anything done, and there’s been a noticeable lack of teamwork and accountability at City Hall. Jon Maginot is a great guy with a lot of city experience. Maybe he’s ready for the CM job.

  2. Under Mr Jordan, the city council LOST a hugely expensive lawsuit over planning permission, which led to the firing of the city attorney.

    We also had the fiasco of councillor Jeannie Bruins deciding she didn’t want to convene in the council chambers. The city wasted more than $100K with Jordan trying to mollify Bruins’s absurd and wasteful conduct. Just resign now, Bruins. Get rid of them all, and let’s have some adult leadership in Los Altos.

  3. Getting paid to leave is the new thing for city managers. The Palo Alto city manager negotiated an extra year’s salary and benefits and vesting IF he gets fired for cause. His experience in San Jose taught him well and the PA City Council went along with this even though he was the ONLY candidate they interviewed. Shameful.

  4. Honestly, Jordan never defied council members. I’m surprised he agreed to go with only the 9 months pay. I think the new council should bring him back and increase his salary. He has done a great job in a difficult city.

    The council took actions which are going to cost the city $10 Million or so over the next year. Even if it only turns out to be $5 Million, it’s a catastrophe. Maybe this is why he’s willing to go. He knows what went on in the closed sessions and he knows which 2 council members tried to mock Bruins disability by filing their own lying requests for ADA accommodations in council meetings, accommodations which proved not to be valid or needed.

  5. No. I think Lee Eng and Enander voted to oust Jordan because they are embarrassed about the fake ADA requests they filed with the city. They cost the city a lot of money by that move. The whole old council wants a scapegoat for the various council decisions that are costing the city all the money in damages yet to be awarded and/or settlements. The new council members don’t have anything to scapegoat.

  6. I am glad to know that Jordan will be gone soon.

    As the Post noted: “Residents complained that the youth center is hot and lacks the proper equipment to livestream the meetings. The council voted 4-1 to move back to chambers, but Jordan failed to follow through.”

    I was physically in the “hot …” meeting room mentioned in the post. People in the back could not even hear the discussions due to the noise in the room. The meetings are the best way for residents to participate and understand the city’s new proposals and agenda. Obviously, Chris does not care. If he does not care about city residents concerns, why does he deserve to be a city manager?

    A city manager does not work and function properly for the majority of city residents should be terminated. IMO, he does not deserve the generous severance package that the city gives to him.

  7. There are reasons why Jordan might want to go and they aren’t hard to find. For one thing, the peanut gallery doesn’t hesitate to dump on Jordan for things which aren’t true. For example, the Post talks about him “refusing” to share the cost estimates for different options on building a new Emergency Operations Center, but doesn’t establish the fact that he has such cost estimates. What I saw was him trying to get a direction from the council on how to proceed in designing the EOC. Based on that, then he could have gotten estimates for the direction the council wanted to go. But the Post takes it as his having all the answers beforehand.

    Some thing applies to this issue of council meetings. The Post didnt’ cover it but the whole council chamber was finally all torn up for a needed and approved remodeling during this Pandemic between September and November. The chambers were not usable during this work. That work was postponed from a long time back. It was supposed to be done right around the time the council talked of wanting to move back to meeting in the chambers. It looks like Jordan was trying to move the meetings back, but then the 2 other council members filed the ADA requests and more care had to be taken to avoid violating federal law. THe council never voted to direct Jordan to violate the ADA. He has a job where he is the one who has to respond to changing circumstances, without being able to say “I have to bring this up at the council meetings.”

    So, Jordan might get fed up with this… but he might have thuoght with new council members things might change. He might still think that. It’s really pretty silly worrying about meetings. They did eventually get the live stream going from the LAYC location. During the Pandemic, everyone got to sit at home for the council meetings. LAYC might be drafty or something, but it really doesn’t matter.

  8. There’s too much firing in the mindset these days. I attribute it to the President who seems to fire more people than he hires. Firing should be a last resort. In this case, we’re in trying times and Jordan has led the city in doing an outstanding job. Most of the residents in the city are happy with what the city has been doing and how it has been done. 3 council candidates who stressed the need for change got relatively few votes. The lowest 3 averaged under 3000 votes each out of 22000 registered voters. Their message did not resonate with the voters. Of the top 4 it’s ironic that only Lee Eng claims sometimes the city is doing many bad things, and she has been on the council for 4 years herself. Maybe she should look in the mirror. The council members need to work with each other.

    • Thanks for the information. Wow! I am shocked to know how big these groups are. That is why Jordan could ignore the majority of Los Altos residents’ concerns for years and still hold his job.

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