Friday, April 15, 2011

What’s Taking Alameda So Long to Hire Russo?

By Robert Gammon
Fri, Apr 15, 2011 at 10:29 AM

It’s been several weeks since news leaked that the Alameda City Council had selected Oakland City Attorney John Russo to be its next city manager. And yet there has been no official announcement. Is Alameda having second thoughts?

The short answer appears to be “no.” Knowledgeable sources say the Alameda council decided to conduct a thorough background check on Russo before officially offering him the position. Although it’s highly unlikely that they’ll find any major problems in Russo’s past, since he has maintained a relatively scandal-free record during his nearly two decades in public office, Alameda councilmembers are said to be determined to do their due diligence.

They were particularly stung when they found out after hiring ex-City Manager Ann Marie Gallant that she had some issues in her past that they weren’t fully aware of. In fact, spurned developer SunCal made a big issue of Gallant’s background during last year’s nasty political campaign.

However, the only likely issue that background investigators may find troubling about Russo is his ability to work well with others. He’s had some high-profile disputes with Oakland councilmembers and Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, and he stopped attending council closed sessions where legal issues are discussed because he can’t stand being in the same room with some of the councilmembers. How will he react in Alameda if he can’t get along with some councilmembers there?

It’s an interesting question, but sources say that Oakland politicians who have feuded with Russo are unlikely to badmouth him to Alameda investigators. The reason? They really want him to get the Alameda job so that he’ll leave Oakland.

Still, there’s at least one other issue to be resolved, sources say. And that’s compensation. Russo, who makes $200,000 a year as Oakland’s city attorney, is said to want a substantial raise to become Alameda’s city manager. But the city is broke. Indeed, at this point, money may be the only thing that gets in the way of Russo taking the job.

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