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Novato Advance: Mayor responds to charges behind rumored recall
Sunday 24 Aug 2008, 09:17
Filed under: Marin, NCRA, Novato, Railroad | Tags:

Part 2 in the rumors of a recall. Something you consider is this is the Marin city most likely to go bankrupt.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008 10:59 AM PDT

Paul S. Mamalakis

This is the second installment on the potential recall movement against Mayor Pat Eklund and Councilmembers Jim Leland and Carole Dillon-Knutson.

Needless to say, the mayor feels the charges are overblown and don’t rise to the level of justifying a recall.

Eklund admits there’s a common denominator to the departure of former City Manager Rod Wood and Dan Keen, slated to leave for Concord next week. Both were presented with career opportunities they couldn’t pass up.

Wood received big bucks and generous perks to become the head honcho in cash-flush Beverly Hills. Similarly,’s July 2 posting read, “New city manager just struck it rich. Concord’s incoming city manager, Dan Keen, just hit the jackpot. The terms and conditions of his new contract (yet to be approved) have just been released, and boy are they nice!”

As Novato’s city manager, Keen earned $175,000 annually plus an incentive package. In Concord, his yearly base pay will balloon to $235,000. Adding $15,500 for a deferred compensation account, $7,200 vehicle allowance and $7,050 401(k) contribution, Keen will get a hefty $264,750. He’ll also receive a $300,000 home loan, temporary housing allowance of $2,000 monthly for a year, reasonable moving expenses, 40 days paid annual leave, full payment of medical, dental and long-term disability insurance premiums, lifetime medical and guaranteed severance pay of $176, 250.

Moreover, Concord presents significant professional challenges for Keen. The city has a population of 122,000, employs 500 full-time and 135 part-time workers, and operates on a budget of $177 million — five times more than Novato’s.

Asked about the deal breaker that caused the cessation of negotiations for the purchase of the old downtown movie house, Eklund claims, “The city council wanted a commitment from Tallen and Keshen that the Novato Theater would be used for film and/or performing arts. Tallen and Keshen indicated they could not make that commitment.”

According to the mayor, the city was recently contacted by individuals who have proposed new ways to convert the long-vacant theater into the desired venue. This would entail forming a public, private and non-profit partnership — modeled after the theaters in Larkspur and San Rafael. On Sept. 9, the council will revisit the prickly issue to develop a new game plan.

Last year, Eklund says city officials learned that, “The North Coast Railroad Authority is anticipating up to 60 railcars coming through Novato and along Highway 37 per day. The NCRA had not evaluated the impact (noise, vibration, etc.) to the residents living/working along the rail line nor committed to mitigation measures to reduce or eliminate those impacts.”

Therefore, Eklund maintains that the council felt compelled to protect Novato’s citizenry and sued the railroad authority for failure to comply with California’s Environmental Quality Act. The County of Marin and the Friends of the Eel River subsequently filed amicus briefs supporting Novato’s position. To date, the city has spent $212,800 in legal fees. A trial is set for Aug. 26 in Marin County Superior Court.

Whether or not a recall campaign materializes, Eklund, Leland and Dillon-Knutson should treat the threat as a sign they’re not performing up to snuff.

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