By JOSH FRIEDMAN
Typing eight words, two periods and hitting the send button was all it took for the city of Arroyo Grande’s top executive to resign in the midst of a pandemic and global economic downturn.
A records request for Arroyo Grande City Manager Jim Bergman’s resignation letter has revealed Bergman resigned on Thursday by way of the following text message sent to city officials:
“I resign. I will not be coming back.”
Bergman, who has not spoken publicly about his decision to leave his post as city manager, was reportedly clashing with Arroyo Grande Mayor Caren Ray Russom. Sources say Bergman and Ray Russom were at odds over who would hold the responsibility for delivering coronavirus updates to the council and the public.
At last week’s council meeting, Councilwoman Lan George asked Bergman a question about the city’s response to the coronavirus. While Bergman was attempting to answer George’s question, Ray Russom interrupted him, saying she would answer all questions about the virus.
Several of Ray Russom’s fellow council members also voiced disapproval of Ray Russom for not getting council approval before she signed Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham’s letter to the governor on behalf of the city. A few years ago, the city passed a policy requiring council members to obtain council approval before signing any documents as a city representative.
On Sunday, Ray Russom addressed Bergman’s departure in a video she posted on Facebook.
“This was an individual decision made by Mr. Bergman in his own best interests, and I can’t speak to why he made that decision. That’s for him to share with you at a time of his choosing,” Ray Russom said.
But, Ray Russom denied allegations that any fraud or malfeasance could have factored into Bergman’s decision.
“I really just want to put the rumor mill to rest. There is nothing terrible that has gone on here. There is no fraud, no malfeasance, nothing that Mr. Bergman had done that caused the city council to take any action,” Ray Russom said.
Ray Russom also used the Facebook video to tell members of the public to temper their rhetoric amid the pandemic. The public should be grateful for, and compassionate to, public servants and should be thanking them, rather than blaming them, she said.
Bergman had replaced former city manger Dianne Thompson, whom the council voted to terminate in 2016.