Friends and supporters of departing City Attorney Christi Hogin crowded into City Hall Friday to bid her farewell — and to take a couple of pot shots at the three councilmembers who apparently orchestrated her resignation.
Those efforts — including a threat to take away Hogin’s vacation, a demand for time sheets documenting her hours of work and the hiring of a high-priced employment attorney to negotiate Hogin’s departure — made a distinct impression on those who gathered to see her off.
Referring to an observation by Councilman Harry Barovsky that Hogin had been the city’s pinata for the past year, resident Marissa Coughlin jokingly told the crowd she had placed a special order for a pinata in the shape of a “three-headed jackass.”
“[Hogin] can take it home with her and [she] and her kids can beat the heck out of it,” said Coughlin.
Mayor Walt Keller, Mayor Pro Tem Carolyn Van Horn and Councilman Tom Hasse did not attend Friday’s gathering, and Councilwoman Joan House said the party was planned that way.
“They were asked not to come,” said House.
Before House presented Hogin with a Malibu Tile, a former city employee presented another memento that caused the assembled staff members to break into raucous laughter: a T-shirt that read, “I Survived Malibu Club.” One staff member in the crowd chortled, “Better order one for me, too.”
A tradition began when then-City Manager Ray Taylor left, that the last staff employee to leave comes back to present a T-shirt to the next person leaving. In addition to Kim Collins, former project manager for the city, former planning directors Joyce Parker and Vince Bertoni returned for the Friday afternoon party.
When Hogin stepped forward to make her departing remarks, some staff members called out, “Now, don’t cry.” Hogin responded that “it doesn’t take a lot to make a maudlin Irish girl cry.” Still, she choked back tears when she cited what she said was her only regret: “Leaving my routine of coming in here every morning.”
And in a clear signal that Hogin’s resignation was far from voluntary, she added, “I never wanted to see this day.”
Under the severance agreement, a copy of which was obtained by The Malibu Times, Hogin will be paid her salary for the remainder of this year, and for all of next year as well. Hogin agreed not to bring any legal action on matters arising from her employment with the city, and she agreed to serve as a legal consultant for the remainder of the year. The agreement does not require a specific number of hours, and payment is not contingent on hours.
Barovsky said that while Hogin is being paid a total of $227,000, he expects the city will end up paying around $400,000 to hire an interim attorney and one to permanently replace Hogin. The council is scheduled to discuss its options for finding an interim attorney at a special meeting Wednesday evening.
Hasse, reached after the farewell party, hewed closely to the official line that Hogin voluntarily resigned. Still, he briefly hinted that Hogin’s departure was not a straightforward resignation when he said, “It’s frustrating that I am not able to tell the people of Malibu the precise reasons for why I accepted her resignation.” State law prohibits elected officials from discussing some city personnel matters.
Asked whether he felt a year-and-one-half’s worth of salary was a bit generous for an employee who only quit, Hasse said, “We wanted to recognize her service to the city.” But he quickly added that the city was paying for an unknown number of hours of Hogin’s time for consulting duties.
“We felt it was worthwhile for her to serve as a consultant,” he said. “If it’s generous, so be it, but we did what we felt was needed to protect the legal interests of the city.”
Of the five council members, only Keller, Van Horn and Hasse approved a severance agreement for Hogin, who had been investigating friends and supporters of the three for possible campaign violations during last year’s City Council race. The severance agreement came on the heels of an apparent yearlong effort by Keller, Van Horn and Hasse to remove Hogin from her position.