Stockton council fires city manager
Action follows revelation of possible $400,000 loss on Neil Diamond concert
By Cheryl Winkelman, STAFF WRITER
STOCKTON — City Manager Mark Lewis was fired by the Stockton City Council Tuesday, just days after it was announced a pricey Neil Diamond concert he authorized could mean a $400,000 loss for the city.
Along with city staff and the International Facility Group, the
company that manages the arena, Lewis arranged for Diamond to be paid a $1 million fee for performing what would be the first concert in the new Stockton Arena.
The concert, one piece of the downtown revitalization plan, was expected to bring in close to $119,000 in revenue, according to an early budget.
But Lewis informed City Council in a letter dated Jan. 13 that a loss of nearly $400,000 should be expected.
Diamond is a top act on the concert circuit, rated number eight among the top 10 touring acts. Average ticket prices exceed $60 at his performances. Last year Diamond’s tours grossed $47 million.
However, Councilman Clem Lee said the Neil Diamond concert was just one reason Lewis was terminated.
“He had established a pattern where he was not conducting his affairs in the scrupulous matter that was required,” Lee said.
What was missing was openness and forthrightness on the manager’s part, Lee added.
“At times, he took chances and made pretty huge sweeping decisions without consulting” the council, Lee said.
Councilman Dan Chapman cited similar problems.
“It came down to a matter of trust or lack thereof,” he said.
Both said the timing of Lewis’ dismissal so soon after the Diamond concert is coincidental.
“At whatever point you have lost confidence in your CEO, you must discuss it,” Lee said.
The termination decision was reached in a closed City Council session during which Mayor Edward Chavez and all five council members wanted to oust him. Vice Mayor Gary Giovanetti was Lewis’ only supporter.
He said he would have preferred to sit down with Lewis to establish some job performance guidelines before firing him.
“I was still of a mind that his
good deeds had outweighed his bad deeds,” Giovanetti said.
Lewis, he said, was instrumental in downtown’s redevelopment, including the new arena and ballpark.
Lewis’ “bad deeds” were getting “too far out in front of the council,” Giovanetti said, though he would not publicly discuss specifics because the council had agreed not to.
Lewis ran into some trouble in 2004 in Sonoma County, where he was charged with battery and resisting arrest for a bar fight at the Swiss Hotel.
Before Stockton, he served as the city manager in Union City.
His 2001 employment contract gave him $164,616 in an annual base salary, subject to performance increases. His severance package gives him seven months of his current base salary plus any leave time accrued.
Lewis did not return a call to his home.
Contact Cheryl Winkelman at (209) 832-6144 or firstname.lastname@example.org.