The entrance of National City Hall on Dec. 1.
The entrance of National City Hall on Dec. 1, 2022. / Photo by Gabriel Schneider

National City’s city manager, Brad Raulston, is going on administrative leave following a closed session review of his performance Tuesday.

Raulston, who’s been with the city for nearly two decades, became a source of contention shortly after taking over the city manager’s office in 2019. Two years later, a divided City Council agreed to extend his contract over the opposition of dozens of city workers and SEIU Local 221.

National City’s compensation was among the lowest countywide, the Union-Tribune reported in 2021. Labor leaders said they’d lost confidence in him because he hadn’t done enough to provide competitive salaries. 

More recently, he’s been criticized for seeking to bring in temp workers to fill vacancies, as other cities have done, and for hiring directors whom some Council members believe aren’t reflective of the city’s diverse population. 

Mayor Ron Morrison said Raulston voluntarily stepped aside for personal reasons. He disagreed with the criticism of Raulston’s hires and blamed labor activists for creating a contentious atmosphere at City Hall. 

“We believe Brad Raulston made the right decision,” said Crystal Irving, president of SEIU Local 221, in a statement. “We are hopeful the Mayor and City Council will now choose a new City Manager that works collaboratively with employees and their union to provide the best services to our community.”

Raulston’s contract expires in May 2024. With total pay and benefits, he made $345,681 in 2021. Because the city’s second highest-ranking executive is also currently on medical leave, the plan is for another official, Armando Vergara, who oversees community development — and who years ago filled in as deputy city manager — to run the city temporarily. 

“It’s unfortunate all of this stuff happened at the same time,” Morrison said. 

The past attempt to terminate Raulston’s employment failed by one vote and became fuel for the mayor’s race the following year. 

After casting the decisive vote to keep Raulston in his position, former Councilwoman Alejandra Sotelo-Solis lost labor support the following year. A divided field of Democrats contributed to the November election of Morrison, a registered independent who aligns with Republicans. 

Sotelo-Solis came to Raulston’s defense, arguing he was one of the main reasons employees had gotten special stipends and pay raises. She also said he was instrumental in changes that she and the rest of the City Council were trying to make. 

At the time, Councilman Jose Rodriguez, a former labor organizer who also ran for mayor, said he pushed for Raulston’s termination because he couldn’t ignore the complaints from employees, labor unions and others. He said the building department was severely understaffed and overworked, which undermined the city’s housing goals. 

“I wish Brad well and commend him for taking a leave to address his issues,” Rodriguez said Thursday. “And I am glad we can rely on very good leadership at the city and have somebody like Armando serve [in the] interim.” 

The Council is expected to talk more about the city manager position at the April 18 meeting and consider next steps. 

Update: This post has been updated to include a statement from SEIU Local 221.

Jesse Marx is Voice of San Diego's associate editor.

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1 Comment

  1. Anyone fighting for the taxpayer and against the lazy labor unions is a hero.

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