MARTINEZ -- A relative newcomer to City Hall may become interim city manager, despite the fact that council members never interviewed her or reviewed her résumé.
In a rushed closed-session meeting last week, the City Council voted 3-2 to offer Anna Gwyn Simpson the position, replacing Phil Vince, who resigned in October. The council is scheduled to approve Simpson's employment agreement at tonight's meeting.
"We had asked in that closed-session meeting to see her résumé and to interview her, and we were denied," said Councilwoman Lara DeLaney, who joined Councilman Mark Ross in opposition to moving ahead.
Mayor Rob Schroder recommended Simpson for the post after Assistant City Manager Alan Shear, who had been acting city manager since Vince's departure, turned down the job. Schroder doesn't believe the council needed to interview Simpson since she works for the city and the position is temporary.
"I've worked very closely with Anna Gwyn for six months, specifically on economic development issues and issues with the marina," said Schroder, adding that he's been impressed with her work.
Simpson, who lives in Martinez, joined the city in July in the newly created position of Deputy Director of Strategic Planning and Community Development. Although she holds a master's degree in public administration from San Francisco State, Simpson apparently has no city management experience. Her background is in housing, most recently with the Oakland Housing Authority.
Simpson wrote in an email that she's honored to have the trust of the mayor and council.
"I will continue to make sound decisions for the residents of our great city," she said.
Ross said hiring a city manager -- even a temporary one -- is the most important decision a council member makes. Without an interview, Ross said he knows nothing about Simpson's qualifications.
"I'm coming forth to improve the process and get some clarification on where we're going with the position of city manager," Ross said. "They have boundless enthusiasm for her; I would just like to know why."
Shear, who has worked for Martinez since 2010, endured an "extensive grilling" during multiple interviews when council members considered him for the interim post, according to Ross. Schroder said the council talked to Shear during several closed-session meetings but disputed the notion that those discussions were formal interviews.
"Perhaps there is a difference in the understanding of the term 'interview,'" DeLaney said. "No, we did not have a preset list of questions that we took turns going down the line and asking. But we did have, on numerous occasions, an opportunity to talk to Alan about his capabilities, his vision for the city, his approach to management."
After Shear agreed to the council members' terms, they asked him to submit an organizational chart for city staff. But Shear's chart didn't match one Councilwoman Anamarie Avila Farias had drawn up, nor did it pass muster with a majority of the council.
Shear subsequently decided he no longer wanted the job. At the Jan. 16 closed-session meeting, Schroder, Farias and Councilman Mike Menesini voted to offer Simpson the interim city manager position. The council will hire a search firm to find a permanent city manager, whom Schroder hopes to have on board by July.
"When is the last time Martinez has had a woman managing and making decisions on behalf of our city? It's about time Martinez comes out of the dark ages," Farias wrote in an email. She did not address the organizational chart dispute.
Lisa P. White covers Concord and Pleasant Hill. Contact her at 925-943-8011. Follow her at Twitter.com/lisa_p_white.