Town Square

Is Mr. Fialho fleeing a sinking ship?

Original post made by Carolyn Thomas, Laguna Oaks, on Mar 31, 2011

As a member of the academic community, I have many friends on school boards, both local and nearby. As a Pleasanton resident, I have also heard the concerns of civic leaders and community members regarding public employees' pensions. Lastly, as a parent of a Pleasanton city employees, I've listened to my daughter express frustration at how the City Manager, Nelson Fialho, has mis-handled the media and public criticism of the pension issue, ultimately failing them as a leader. In addition to the fact he is already perceived as incapable of making and sticking to a decision, his apparent "willingness" to pay his entire share of the currently City-paid PERS contribution will now be seen as quite disingenous. I refer to the following: A few weeks ago I learned that Mr. Fialho was possibly in contention for the City Manager's position in San Ramon, previously held by the $300,000/year Herb Moniz. Yesterday, friends of mine with SRUSD's school board confirmed he was actually a finalist for the job. On one hand, I feel compelled to congratulate him for faring so well amid the competition; on the other, I ask him how he can look at himself in the mirror at night, knowing his intentions were to duck out under pressure and leave Pleasanton's city employees to fend for themselves. Of course, they've had to fend for themselves throughout this mess anyway, so they're getting used to it. But, one has to wonder what other job offers Mr. Fialho is now entertaining in his effort to flee a sinking ship?


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Posted by To Carolyn
a resident of Laguna Oaks
on Mar 31, 2011 at 10:26 am

Can't you say anything nice about people? I can feel your frustration and anger, but it appears to be blinding you so that you can only say negative things. So, San Ramon is thinking seriously about hiring Fialho to the tune of $300K? Boy, he must have SOME good qualities, don't you think? Or are you too blinded by your own personal pain to see them?

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Posted by Bill
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Mar 31, 2011 at 12:48 pm

I was always under the impression that a city manager's allegiance was to the city, not to the city workers. How else can you bargin in good faith?

Executives come and go, the real work always gets done by the people in the trenches.

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Posted by Carolyn Thomas
a resident of Laguna Oaks
on Mar 31, 2011 at 2:00 pm

Perhaps I did a poor job articulating the source of my frustration. What irks me and is a cause for concern is the fact that Mr. Fialho proudly acknowledged being one of the lowest paid city managers in the area, made a big to-do about the 8% PERS contribution he offered to pay on his own behalf, and forced the public employees back to the bargaining table... I now wonder if these were simply publicity stunts, knowing that the eyes of San Ramon's leaders (and potential employers) were keenly watching him while under consideration for their city manager position.

Certainly Mr. Fiahlo DOES have some very good qualities, as pointed out above, but let's face it, he inherited a very healthy city from Deborah Acosta in late 2004. The first five or six years were relatively simple due to factors already in place but, now that the going has gotten tough, it seems Mr. Fialho's true colors are really beginning to show through.

Bill's comment about a city manager's allegiance being to the city itself is valid, but would this city be what it is without the hard work and dedication of its workers? I'm admittedly biased, as my daughter has a vested interest here, but I was also someone who played devil's advocate for many months when we'd have discussions about pension reform, often to the point of taking Mr. Fialho's side completely. I now question, as does she, what Mr. Fialho's true agenda has been all this time.

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Posted by lessismore
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 31, 2011 at 3:12 pm

The city manager works for the taxes payers in the city of Pleasanton and not your family.

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Posted by throw him out
a resident of Downtown
on Mar 31, 2011 at 4:11 pm

Fialho will have a real awakening if he gets that job. No more having two full time, highly paid assistants. His "cost" to us is far more than $300K a year. I predict a short and not so illustrious career if he jumps to San Ramon. And if he does not why don't we throw him out anyway?

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Posted by David
a resident of Bonde Ranch
on Mar 31, 2011 at 4:24 pm

Carolyn's comments sound a bit self serving because of her family ties, but I don't think she's that far off the mark. I worked in management for a Silicon Valley firm up until I retired last year. When a product was a failure the corporate heads and stockholders always looked for a scapegoat. Good managers would never stand for that and knew that if you wanted to keep good morale and ensure your labor capital, you supported your team. We're in the same situation here in Pleasanton. The economy continues to falter and now people want someone's head on a stick. Good thing those public employees get those "lofty" pensions, because now the Bart Hugheses have someone to blame for the country's mess! Nelson could have stepped up and reminded people that our country's financial woes are not the public employees' fault. He could have supported them instead of sitting idly by while the newspapers and town cryers (emphasis on the cry) took potshots at them. He didn't, and now the employees are mad. Can you blame them? He STILL could have worked with them to achieve balance with respect to the pension issues without selling them down the river. AND, he would have retained their respect. JMHO.

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Posted by Arnold
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 31, 2011 at 5:58 pm


Don't you think the unions have a big enough team? I wont specifically talk about Pleasnton but it is very common for the Union team to include mayors & council members, city managers, state representatives, 400 + screaming employees, and the financial war chest of the unions themselves. Why do you think this state is in the shape it's in? Why do you think, given the recent polls that show 74% of taxpayers want pension reform, that it hasn't happened? It isn't even being seriously discussed by our governor.

The better question is which so-called decision makers don't have a stake in continuing the unsustainable and overly generous compensation/pension benefits/healthcare benefits that are requiring increased taxes to support?

I'll ask the question again, why do you think, given the recent polls that show 74% of taxpayers want pension reform, while financial experts are yelling that the current system is unsustainable, that meaningful reform isn't even part of the discussion? What has our Governor even said on this topic?

The reason: it IS the taxpayers that aren't represented.

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Posted by longtimer
a resident of Country Fair
on Apr 1, 2011 at 8:43 am

My. Fialho is following the direction of the Council majority. The pension issues stem from the elected officials who give the city manager the direction. Perhaps Mr. Fialho is concerned that this council is not interested in the long term affects of the pension and other unfunded liabilities and that is why he would be looking elsewhere. Mr. Fialho is between a rock and a hard place. If he says that more needs to be done with pensions, the Council will fire him.

We currently have a council that has a mayor that is seeking higher office as a democrat and needs union support (like Tom Pico did before he ran for Assembly), a council member who is a member of the teacher's union but more important a very active member of the democratic leadership, another council member who has consistently been in favor of unions including supporting the union workers in Castlewood (which is not even in the city of Pleasanton jurisdiction), and another council member who is running for mayor in the next election and wants the unions to support him. With a make up like this, it would be hard for Mr. Fialho to get any real reforms against the unions.

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Posted by jacob and alma
a resident of Canyon Oaks
on Apr 5, 2011 at 5:52 pm

The true test of the character of a man is how he reacts in times of adversity. Running from things is the act of a weasel.