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Cole Resigns as Santa Monica City Manager

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By Jorge Casuso

April 17, 2020 -- City Manager Rick Cole offered his resignation Friday afternoon after coming under increasing pressure for his handling of the corinavirus emergency.

The move comes after Cole on Tuesday warned the City Council that hundreds of municipal employees would need to be let go and programs and services drastically slashed to make up for revenue lost during the government-mandated lockdown.

Cole announced his decision in a blog posted shortly after 2:30 p.m. Friday.

"I am offering to step aside now to facilitate the restructuring that must take place, knowing we will need to make reductions in staff at every level of the organization – literally from the top to the bottom," he wrote.

"The capable staff that remain will carry on the mission and pursue the vision of a city that works for everyone."

On Tuesday night, Cole warned the City Council that the government-mandated shutdown will cost Santa Monica an estimated $226 million in lost revenues by July 2021 ("Council Approves Voluntary Separation Program for Santa Monica City Workers," April 16).

"The push to put in place a plan to pay down our massive pension obligations had already imposed unpopular fiscal constraints," Cole said of the reasons for his departure.

"The protracted struggle over pension reform has eroded the good will I previously enjoyed with our unions," he said.

"The crushing demands of serving as Emergency Service Director over the past five weeks has put me squarely in the line of fire for anyone dissatisfied with any aspect of the City’s response to the emergency.

"Most importantly, the need to deal with a projected $300 million dollar shortfall over the next 26 months puts us all in a nearly impossible situation.

"It almost certainly will result in personnel reductions that will be devastating to the livelihoods of colleagues I’ve been proud to lead -- and devastating to community services I’ve been committed to enhancing," Cole said.

The blog was posted shortly after Cole met with the City's top department heads, sources told the Lookout.

Cole furloughed more than 600 "as-needed" part-time workers and planned to lay off some 350 of the approximately 400 workers on unpaid administrative leave, sources said.

A petition was circulated before Tuesday's Council meeting and urged the Council to fire Cole for "abusing power while the City is in a state of emergency" ("Petition Calls for Santa Monica City Manager's Firing," April 15, 2020).

The petition circulated on had gathered nearly 3,000 signatures by 2 p.m. Thursday.

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