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Council rejects residency question for applicants
• Daniel Padilla hired as city engineer
Daniel Padilla.jpg
Daniel Padilla was hired as city engineer on Monday evening. - photo by Jeff Benziger

Members of the Ceres City Council on Monday rejected a councilman’s request to ask all future city job applicants if they would consider moving to Ceres.

Channce Condit brought up the issue on Jan. 14 at the same time he and Vice Mayor Linda Ryno voted no on the hiring of Fire Chief Kevin Wise, who lives in southwest Modesto. Condit requested the discussion on Monday’s agenda but failed to get a second to his motion to make the question of residency required for all future hires, not just department heads.

Also on Monday’s agenda was the hiring of a new city engineer in Daniel Padilla. Condit’s request to table Padilla’s appointment until after the question about residency was also rejected.  However, City Manager Toby Wells told Condit he did ask Padilla if he would consider moving to Ceres only because of special circumstances of few applicants led to selection interviews and not a panel interviews.

City Attorney Tom Hallinan cautioned the council that while such a question could legally be asked, it would expose the city to the risk of a discrimination suit. In a memo to the city, Hallinan said: “A job applicant who answers “no’ and states they are not willing to move to the city could later make a claim that the city did not hire them based on their answer to this question and that such action was in violation of the State Constitution.” While the city cannot mandate that an employee move to the city as a condition of employment, it can require that residency be within a “reasonable and specific distance” from the city.

Condit argued semantics over the attorney’s use of the word “willingness” saying it differs from “considering moving to Ceres.” He reiterated his desire to have a written check box on city employment application “if the candidate would consider relocating to Ceres if they do not already live in Ceres.” Despite the legal warnings, Condit said it would be “good policy.” He motioned to adopt the change but it died for a lack of a second.

Padilla replaces Daryl Jordan who resigned in September to work for the city of Scotts Valley. Wells said as a professional civil engineer, Padilla is rare in that he is a licensed land surveyor and could potential save the city tens of thousands of dollars in contract services. Padilla, who unsuccessfully ran for Ceres City Council in November 2011 and who moved to Bakersfield to work for that city, is “uniquely positioned to hit the ground running,” said Wells.

The savings from having a city engineer with a land surveyor license will vary, said Wells, depending on the volume of projects in the future.

“We’re confident that having somebody with the skill set that has the ability to stamp a set of plans as a land surveyor for monument reservation, for metes-and-bounds and for final mapping is a significant benefit that will save in an average year … between  $10,000 and $20,000,” said Wells.

Mayor Chris Vierra, who is an engineer by trade, said Padilla’s qualifications are rare and unique and “will definitely save the city a significant amount of money.”

Ryno expressed a concern that Padilla’s salary included an incentive and pay steps that would in two years or less put him making $8 less per month what the police chief earns. She said she was bothered that Padilla’s salary would be so high that the city would then be required to increase the police chief salary to ensure disparity with Padilla’s. Wells said his special qualifications are a benefit to the city.

Councilman Bret Durossette said he was all for the incentive of five percent and said, “I don’t think it’s our job to necessarily micromanage the city manager.”

Ryno said in light of the legal opinion, she wants to see the city manager stress that all city department heads and key employees “need to start participating ... need to be part of the community that is paying you so well.”