Conflict Between Mayor and City Council Goes to Court

Conflict Between Mayor and City Council Goes to Court


In recent weeks, the Voice joined a chorus of publications who reported on the highly charged conflict between Riverside Mayor Rusty Bailey and members of the city council. 

The conflict was triggered over a new employment contract with Riverside City Manager John A. Russo, which extends the City Manager’s term for seven additional years and raises his salary by three percent annually through the extension. In addition, the new contract green-lights a home loan for Russo in the amount of $675,000 for a term of 15 years. 

The City Council approved the contract over Bailey’s objections in February by a 5-2 vote. Subsequently, Bailey threatened a veto. However, there is ambiguity as to whether the city charter empowers Bailey with the authority to do so. 

On the one hand, the city charter clearly states the mayor can veto any formal action of the City Council with a few exceptions, including an emergency ordinance, the city’s annual budget, or any ordinance proposed by initiative petition. On the other hand, it states clearly that the city manager, in this case Russo, serves at the pleasure of the City Council. 

Riverside’s City Attorney and most on the City Council are aligned in their belief that Bailey does not have the power to issue a veto on this issue. Thus, the council is bent on ignoring the veto rather than take a vote on it, and implement the new contract based on its February approval. 

The conflicting opinions and the council’s choice to ignore Bailey’s veto has left the mayor with limited options, though he continues to express his belief the Russo contract is both poorly timed and too expensive.

Last Friday, Bailey filed a petition with the court and asked for a temporary restraining order that would prevent the city council from implementing Russo’s contract unless the council votes on his veto. It would take five of the seven-member city council to override it. 

As of publication, a hearing date on the mayor’s request was yet to be determined. In the meantime, Mayor Bailey is taking donations for his share of court costs so they are not passed on to local taxpayers. He also reminded citizens that all costs could be avoided if the city council would just vote on his veto.

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