DOWNEY – The Downey City Council unanimously voted current Mayor Pro Tem Sean Ashton and Councilman Rick Rodriguez as the Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem for 2018, respectively, at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.
Downey traditionally rotates Mayoral and Pro Tem duties annually, with council voting on who will take the positions at the end of each year.
While the mayor pro tem typically steps into the mayor’s seat, this is not a guarantee and has not always been the case.
Current Mayor Fernando Vasquez made the motion to appoint Ashton to the mayor position, with Rodriguez seconding.
This will be Ashton’s first time as mayor.
After the vote, Ashton said he was honored, humbled and nervous to step into the mayor position.
“I want to do what’s right for the city, and I’m appreciative of my council colleagues to put their utmost confidence in me to guide the city through 2018,” said Ashton.
The City Council got off to a rocky start in 2017, when Ashton – who was seemingly next in line to be mayor pro tem for the year – was passed over by his council mates when then-mayor Alex Saab nominated himself to serve as mayor pro tem.
Ashton responded days later by accusing his council colleagues of violating the state’s open meetings law and threatening a lawsuit.
The council held a re-vote for the position and made Ashton mayor pro tem.
Council members now seem to be on the same page, however, despite differences of opinion.
“There’s always going to be differences of opinion, and I’m ok with that; I don’t expect everybody to believe the same way I believe,” said Ashton. “The main thing is we work together as a whole; even if we do have a difference, there’s a way of doing…we understand that we’re always going to have a difference of opinion, but if we do it in a way that’s respectful to the citizens and respect the process, then we’re going to get along.”
Rodriguez said he’s excited about the promotion.
“What an honor to be mayor pro tem in this great city of Downey,” said Rodriguez. “When I ran for office, the hope and prayer was to be mayor one day…to be able to follow the legacy behind these guys ahead of me, I’m really honored and blessed.”
The transition will occur when Ashton is sworn in on Dec. 12.
Council members made several payroll adjustments at Tuesday’s meeting, including boosting the salaries of police chief Carl Charles and city manager Gilbert Livas.
The city, Downey Police Officer’s Association (DPOA) and Downey Police Management Association (DPMA) recently completed a series of negotiations which included wage hikes.
The agreement provides for three across-the-board range adjustments from July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2020 as follows: 2% effective Dec. 4, 2017; 2% effective June 18, 2018; and 3% effective July 1, 2019.
Under the adjustments, Charles’ salary will now top out at $19,927 monthly.
Charles’s pay increase also forced an increase in Livas’ salary, due to a clause in his employment agreement.
Livas’ contract requires a 5% differential between him and the next highest-paid employee.
The 2% compensation adjustment, due Jan. 15, 2018, will bring Livas’ annual salary to $262,979.
Both pay increases were approved unanimously.
Maria Alicia Duarte was unanimously selected as Downey’s newest city clerk.
The city clerk administers democratic processes such as elections, access to city records, and all legislative actions ensuring transparency to the public.
The city clerk also acts as a compliance officer for federal, state, and local statutes including the Political Reform Act, the Brown Act, and the Public Records Act. The position also manages public inquiries and relationships and may arrange for ceremonial and official functions.
Duarte stepped in as interim city clerk earlier this year after the departure of Adria Jimenez.
Duarte will receive a monthly salary rate of $8,293, and a six-month severance payment in the event that council decides to exercise its right to remove her from the position.
Duarte’s hiring will cause no fiscal impact, as personnel costs are budgeted in the current FY 2017-18 budget.