ROSAMOND — The Rosamond Community Services District Board of Directors has hired former General Manager Steve Perez, less than four months after dismissing his successor.
“I’m honored that the board felt good enough to bring me back as general manager,” Perez said. “I’ve got a challenge before me.”
The Board on Wednesday announced Perez’s unanimous appointment following a closed session prior to the regular meeting. They then added an item to the regular meeting agenda to approve his contract, which had not been included in the meeting agenda when it was posted last week.
The contract was approved without discussion on a 4-0 vote, with Director Gregory Washington absent.
The two-year contract sets Perez’s annual salary at $153,595, with the same benefits as other management employees. It includes use of a district vehicle.
It has a severance package of 12 months’ salary or for the remainder of the contract, whichever is less, should the district decide to terminate Perez “for any reason or no reason.”
However, former Director Ed MacKay contends the action to approve Perez’s contract is in violation of the Ralph M. Brown Act, the state’s open meetings law, because it was added to the agenda at the last minute, following the closed session, without giving a reason for the urgency.
Additionally, the terms of the contract were not publicly announced during the meeting, although a copy was available at a reporter’s request before the close of the meeting.
MacKay said Thursday he intends to file a complaint about the Brown Act violations.
“There’s no transparency there. It looks like there’s backroom deals,” MacKay said. “They can’t be doing these backroom deals.”
The Board met in closed session during a special meeting on June 7 to discuss “appointment/interview” of a general manager, according to the agenda.
It was the latest of 14 special meetings held by the Board this year.
Board President Greg Wood said so many issues have come up since Smith’s departure, including regulatory issues regarding the district’s wastewater treatment plant, “a lot of things that really take a seasoned veteran like Steve to get in there and handle these matters.”
Since February, Assistant General Manager John Houghton has been serving as interim general manager and Director of Administration Lizette Guerrero has been serving as interim assistant general manager.
“We put a lot on top of them,” Wood said of Houghton and Guerrero, and the Board felt the district needed to bring in someone with the knowledge, experience and expertise to handle the issues.
“Ideally, we would want to do a long search, but we really weren’t in a position to do so at this time,” he said.
The Board reached out to Perez about returning to helm the district, he said.
“I’m extremely serious about being a general manager. It’s an extremely important job when public health and safety is involved,” Perez said.
Perez served as general manager of the district from 2011 to 2015, when the previous Board, which included MacKay, fired him. Under the terms of his contract, the district continued to pay his $150,000 salary for nearly a year, until the end of his contract.
The Board hired then-Lancaster City Councilman Ron Smith as interim general manager less than a month later. They removed the “interim” tag five months after that.
Following the election of a new Board majority in November, the Board on Feb. 22 terminated Smith’s contract without cause, triggering a $240,000 severance package to be paid monthly over 18 months.
Perez, a former Kern County supervisor who grew up in Rosamond and graduated from Rosamond High School, was hired in 2011 to run the district, which provides water to more than 19,000 residents and also operates the community’s sewer system.
Perez was a Kern County supervisor from 1994 to 2002, after working 11 years as a Kern County Sheriff’s deputy and detective and before that as an electrical construction foreman. He lost a 2002 campaign to become Kern County Sheriff and a 2010 campaign to return to the Board of Supervisors.