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Thursday, February 02, 2006 | A few weeks ago, the staff here at Scott Lewis on Politics, or SLOP, had its collective imagination piqued.
When Mayor Jerry Sanders was elected, we immediately recalled that one of his first promises was to ask for letters of resignation from 300 high-level city employees. After reading the letters, he promised, he would decide which of them to accept.
We wondered what those letters would look like. After all, what do you say in a letter of resignation when you don’t want to resign and you don’t know if you’ll have to? We could only imagine. So we filed a public records request and promised to update readers when we found out.
We created a mock up of what somebody might say. It went like this:
Mayor Jerry Sanders
202 C. Street
San Diego, CA 92101
Re: Your Request for 300 Resignations of High-Level Managers
Hon. Mayor Sanders:
I resign. Please keep me on the job, of course. But I resign. Effective, umm, I don’t know when – because I don’t want to leave. Here’s my resignation, however.
A high-level city employee
Turns out we weren’t so far off. Wednesday, on my desk and stacked as thick as a phone book, were the letters of resignation of 158 city managers. That’s, of course, short of the 300 Sanders promised. It appears that there weren’t as many managers as he, or his campaign managers, thought. Plus, none of the managers of public safety employees were asked to turn their resignations in.
Also, interestingly, the increasingly independent-minded City Auditor John Torell refused to, or neglected to, turn his resignation letter into the mayor. But what’s going on with him deserves a column of its own.
It appears that we were right: It was hard for the city’s many upper-level managers to write the letters.
So Sanders provided them a less awkward approach. He gave them a form letter they merely needed to sign. Even COO Ronne Froman, Sanders’ much hailed second-in-command, filled out the letter. (She gave hint of her Navy background in the date under her signature. Like a good sailor, she wrote “9 Jan 06.” I don’t know why Navy people do it that way, but they do.)
We’re assuming Sanders’ isn’t going to accept Froman’s resignation.
But some may get the boot just for trying to be the smartest kid in the class and write their own letters in addition to the form letter Sanders had provided them.
Here’s how one employee put it:
“It is very difficult for me to write this letter although I understand the need to take this action, for I strongly believe I would make an active member of your leadership team, working toward solutions that will demonstrate that the city is the best run government in the country.”
Oh jeez. Sanders should accept that one just as part of a war against dorkiness.
Other senior city employees included resumes with their letters of resignation. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that’s probably never happened before.
“This ‘offer of resignation’ is provided without prejudice to claim unemployment benefits in the event the city elects to accept this involuntary resignation,” wrote one manager, who pointed out that she had also included a resume in her packet.
In the form letter Sanders provided, it reads simply this: “As requested, I respectfully offer you my resignation. I understand that you can accept this resignation at any time.”
It was a brilliant move: The employees had the opportunity to get out of this without having to construct these awkward sentences. But some still did.
Here’s what one employee very deftly added in the same font after that sentence. “I am in no way indicating a voluntary desire to leave employment with the city of San Diego nor am I waiving any or all rights and protections afforded to me by law.”
So he’s signing something that says “I offer my resignation, but I’m not offering my resignation.”
Another: “I have served the citizens of the city of San Diego for over 15 years with excellent customer service. I know that I would be able to continue serving well under your administration…Please understand it is not my desire to resign but that this is submitted solely in response to Mayoral direction to do so.”
And finally, there was Froman.
Also in Sanders’ form letter is a preamble that reads, in part, “Your offer of resignation will not become effective until it is formally accepted by the Chief Operating Officer Ronne Froman.”
Froman signed it. What a mind trip that must have been.
Please contact Scott Lewis directly with your thoughts, ideas, personal stories or tips. Or send a letter to the editor.