When the Riverside City Council emerged from a closed-door session and announced it was firing City Manager Jon Russo earlier this month, many in the community were surprised and somewhat confused. After all,the firing came on the heels of a previous and recent decision by the council to not only extend Russo’s unexpired contract but to also grant him a salary increase in the process that would have placed him among the highest paid city managers in the state.
The council’s approval of Russo’s contract enhancements was vehemently opposed by Riverside’s Mayor, Rusty Bailey. Bailey had argued how the proposed contract was unwarranted and its financial benefits, untenable and excessive. The new contract guaranteed Russo a compensation package of salary and benefits that totaled $471,000 this year. In addition, it authorized a $675,000 low- interest home loan.
Bailey’s attempt to veto the contract was challenged by council members who claimed he had no authority to do so. Their resistance to his veto efforts had left Bailey with little option other than turning to the courts.
On the heels of Russo’s unexpected and unexplained dismissal, Bailey’s suit remained pending. The city council declared his termination was personnel related and this provided cover for it not to publicly disclose the reason for his dismissal.
In the wake of Russo’s termination, it is important for residents to know the lawsuit filed by Bailey is still pertinent. This is because Russo was purportedly fired without cause and as such although many aspects of the disputed contract automatically ended with his dismissal, he retained his 15-year, $675,000, home loan and in addition, received one year’s severance.
These factors keep Bailey’s lawsuit relevant because if the court ultimately determines he has the power to veto in this instance, Russo’s low interest home loan would no longer be authorized. The Voice will continue to follow this story.