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Long Beach City Council sets special meeting for Thursday to appoint new city manager

Appointment comes two days after current acting manager announces his resignation from the post

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The Long Beach City Council has scheduled a special meeting for Thursday night to appoint a city manager, two days after acting city Manager John Mirando announced his plans to step down after only six months in the job.

The council posted plans for the meeting on the official city website.

It said it will appoint Donna Gayden as city manager “effectively immediately.” According to Linkedin, Gayden is an interim finance Director for the City of Country Club Hills in Illinois. She did not return calls Tuesday night or Wednesday.

The council said Gayden was appointed “on the basis of her experience and ability.”

Mirando, Long Beach’s acting city manager since September, said Tuesday he will step down after only six months in the job after the city council came up a plan to revise significantly the city Charter. The new charter would strip the city manager of his ability to hire key city personnel.

City spokesman Ryan McTiernan said that Mirando told City Council members that he would step down March 9. He will continue to serve as the city’s commissioner of public works.

City Council President John Bendo had said that Gayden “is someone we have talked to.” He declined further comment, saying, “I don’t want to get into details about personnel.”

Bendo said of Mirando, “He’s decided he wants to go home. We appreciate he stepped up at a time of need.” He denied that Mirando had been under pressure to step down. “All the city charter is doing is that some key city officials will be appointed by the council,” Bendo said. “Everything else stays the same.”

In a letter addressed to City Council members, Mirando wrote, “I believe it is in the best interest of the City and myself for me to resume full time efforts as Commissioner of Public Works.”

His decision came as little surprise to City Hall watchers. “He has been under extreme pressure from the City Council,” said one, who asked to remain anonymous.

That pressure, according to others familiar with the workings of city government is a result of the council’s plan to revise the 81-year-old city charter. Council members have proposed stripping the city manger of the power to appoint key city officials including the police commissioner, the fire commissioner and the corporation counsel. Mirando said at a public hearing last week that he would go along with the changes.

Hanging over City Hall is another issue: The Nassau County district attorney’s office and a federal grand jury are investigating some $750,000 in payouts made to roughly a dozen current and former city officials, including former City Manager Jack Schnirman, who is now the Nassau County comptroller. Schnirman, the last permanent city manager, returned some $52,000 in payout money.

The council must vote on the proposed changes, but has not yet set a date.

In his letter, Mirando did not say that the proposed charter revision was a factor in his decision to step down. Instead, he noted that the first draft of the city’s 2020-21 operating budget is being prepared, and that “It would be unfair to the permanent city manager to be in the position to execute a budget which preparation was overseen by an acting city manager they would be replacing.”

“It is absolutely critical to their success, and yours, that the budget be prepared and finalized by the permanent city manager,” Mirando wrote.

In his letter to council members, he said that several infrastructure projects are under way, including bulkheading along the city’s north shore, the construction of a restroom at Neptune Boulevard and the

construction of lifeguard headquarters. These projects, Mirando said, would “require a lot of my attention, and there are multiple other projects in various stages as laid out in the weekly public works update.” He also said also that the city’s five-year capital budget “needs my full attention.”

Mirando was appointed acting city manager in September, shortly after another temporary occupant of the job, Rob Agostisi resigned. Agostisi was preceded by Michael Tangney, Long Beach’s police commissioner.