SANTA ANA (CBSLA.com) — The Santa Ana City Council voted 6-to-1 Tuesday night to fire City Manager Paul Walters just seven months after he was hired for the position.
Walters had been serving as interim City Manager since 2011.
The move will cost the city $265,000, one year’s worth of Walters’ salary. He could also choose an option that would boost his retirement benefits.
Additionally, the City of Santa Ana owes Walters approximately $100,000 in unused leave time.
Walters was Chief of the Santa Ana Police Department before he was hired as City Manager.
“If you’re going to fire Bill Walters, we’re going to fire you. Recall! Recall!” one angry resident said during Tuesday night’s meeting.
An official reason for Walters’ dismissal was not given by council members.
During his tenure as city manager, he helped close a $30-million budget gap by closing the city’s fire department and hiring the Orange County Fire Authority.
Political observers believe Walters got caught in a power struggle between Mayor Miguel Pulido, who cast the only vote to keep him as city manager, and council members who felt he pushed Pulido’s agenda.
A former City Council member said he sees the seeds of another Bell City Council scandal.
“I think it’s very scary. I think it has a very slippery slope that we could be heading in that direction,” the former councilman said.
“I don’t want to get into details, there’s a lot of things going on right now, I just want to settle things down so that we can help the city continue to move forward,” Pulido said to CBS2/KCAL9’s Rachel Kim.
The mayor said he hopes with his talks with the City Council will prevent the next step to terminate Walters.
“We all love this city and we’re working very hard to keep it on a positive path,” Pulido said.
None of the other City Council members would speak with Kim.
Under Walters’ contract, he will resume his post as Santa Ana Police Chief if he’s ultimately fired. The acting chief will become the deputy chief.