Santa Paula Times

Former Public Works Director Finley to be VC’s deputy director of water/sanitation

September 03, 2010
Santa Paula News

Santa Paula’s former longtime Public Works Director Cliff Finley, who was unceremoniously fired from his job in mid-May, has started a new position with the County of Ventura.

“I start tomorrow bright and early” as the county’s deputy director of Water and Sanitation, Finley said Tuesday.

In his new position Finley is overseeing operations and maintenance. He will supervise about 36 employees in a department with an annual budget of more than $24 million.

The county water and sanitation division - Finley will be based in Moorpark - is responsible for seven sewer systems, five water systems, a state certified laboratory and reclaimed water system owned and managed by special districts and overseen by the county. Reddy Pakala is the director of the department, which had an approximately four-week recruitment for the job that pays $120,000, about $20,000 less than Finley made working for the city. Finley, who also acted as Santa Paula’s interim manager for about seven months and was one of three finalists for the job ultimately given to Jaime Fontes, said his family is “absolutely” staying in Santa Paula.

Since Finley was fired in mid-May he worked as a consultant and as interim director of the Mutual Water Company, “a small agricultural water system east of town.” Fontes fired Finley the day before the City Council - grappling with revenue shortfalls - was to meet in a special budget session where public works jobs were targeted for elimination.

Finley, who holds a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from UC Berkeley, became Santa Paula’s Public Works director in 2003 after a six-year tenure as Port Hueneme’s deputy public works director/city engineer. He joined Santa Paula while acting as Port Hueneme’s interim public works director.

Finley was later named Special Projects director - Deputy Jon Turner was then named the interim director of Public Works - to oversee the construction of the city’s $58 million water recycling plant, duties he continued to share as interim city manager. Turner, whose job was targeted for layoff, quit about a week after Finley’s ouster, noting at a council meeting he supported Finley and public works employees. The department’s special projects engineer Fred Rizzo was also laid off.

Norm Wilkinson, who led public works for decades before he retired and Finley replaced him, was hired for his old job on an interim basis, but stayed only a few weeks. John Quinn, the city’s finance director, has been named interim public works director although the city has not formally announced the additional duty. There are numerous projects in the wings that will be financed with an approximately $35 million utility bond, and the city has plans to hire consultants for the projects.

Finley said he is looking forward to his new position with the county. “I wanted new opportunities” by working for a different, larger form of government.

“There are a lot of county jobs throughout the state... I’m guessing it’s a different from of government, but there will be no night meetings and it’s not that political.” In addition, the new position will allow Finley the time to complete his master’s degree in public administration.

“Serving the community of Santa Paula was a wonderful and fulfilling experience. I sincerely enjoyed working with the department heads and Wally” Bobkiewicz, the city’s former city manager now leading Evanston, Illinois.

“It’s truly made me a better person and a better professional... my Santa Paula experience was overall a fabulous and wonderful experience” that Finley said was highlighted by numerous projects, including among others the new water recycling plant, infrastructure improvements, Santa Paula Beautiful events and the Bike Trail, which Finley said he hopes to see launched soon. “Santa Paula is a wonderful town with great people” who Finley said have been “overwhelmingly” supportive since he was terminated.