For the last few years, the city of Oxnard has been the definition of turbulent. While City Hall appeared to be running fairly fluidly in the 2000s, behind the scenes an accounting nightmare was mounting. On the City Council, elected officials had taken certain rather deceptive liberties in not reporting gifts over a certain dollar amount, which the California Fair Political Practices Commission eventually fined them for doing so after a raid by the Ventura County District Attorney on city hall revealed the issues. And in the middle of it all was a city manager who apparently wasn’t properly managing.
Since then, a new mayor has been elected, plus two new councilmembers, and the contract for the former city manager was not renewed. The City Council and city hall stayed in limbo without a permanent city manager for more than two years, waiting for the contract of then-City Manager Ed Sotelo to expire. What city hall needed was a sharp shooter, a person who would not dilly-dally in amending the wrongs and cleaning up the mess from years of improper management of critical departments.
On June 1, Greg Nyhoff, former city manager of Modesto, came equipped to straighten things out at city hall. First thing, he reached out and began repairing and creating new relationships with a scorned community. In August, when the city received a contemptuous letter from federal officials about how it handled homeless grant funds, he was quick to recognize his role in the situation. While placing certain blame on the lack of leadership previously in the department of homelessness services, he also added: “I’m not going to allow us to fail again.”
In October, Nyhoff received approval from the City Council of up to $400,000 for an outside firm to do an audit, which revealed last week that paid leave for Oxnard’s top managers had built up over the established caps — close to $2 million — since 2005. This was due to the lack of enforcement of established policies. We can’t help but wonder how much deeper this rabbit hole of financial mishaps go.
In just over five months, Nyhoff has taken command of a broken city hall and made it his mission to fix it. We are thoroughly impressed with what he has done thus far, and while we know that he is far from correcting all the errors, we feel that Nyoff is just what the city needs. Oxnard is the largest city in Ventura County with a troubled past but also has great potential. Building trust with the community, fixing local government and creating a solid plan for the future will help the city reach its highest potential. Stay tuned.