By Arnold Adler
DOWNEY — Gilbert Livas remains the top administrator for the city following a surge of support from members of the community which included residents, business owners, city employees and former City Council members.
Several hundred people attended a special meeting Dec. 16, at which it was rumored that Livas, city manager since 2012, would be fired.
The agenda called for a closed session to discuss “evaluation of the city manager.” No reason for the possible discharge was given.
But after two hours behind closed doors, City Attorney Yvette A. Garcia told the audience that “there was no action on the [discharge] item and that “the city manager has the full support of the City Council.”
She said she could not give additional information because it was a personnel item.
“If there are no specific charges then the reason for the firing is political,” a resident said.
It was uncertain if further attempts to dismiss Livas might come up, but the city manger, who sat through the four-hour session told a reporter he would stay if allowed.
“Of course. I am committed to the city of Downey,” Livas said.
City Councilwoman Claudia Frometa told a reporter via telephone that she could not comment on the issue or speak for her colleagues, but said “I am happy [Livas] is staying here.”
Other council members did not respond to requests for comment.
“[The City Council] listened to the people,” former Councilman Mario Guerra said.
Guerra was among about 40 people who praised Livas as a person of integrity with strong management skills.
Other former councilmen who spoke in support of Livas were Rick Rodriguez, Alex Saab and Roger Brossmer.
“The fact that this large crowd turned out for a workday meeting with only a 24-hour notice shows the concern in the community,” Rodriguez said.
Martha Sodetani, a member of the Downey school board, praised Livas’s relationship with the school district.
Michael Calvert, a board member with the Downey Chamber of Commerce, said he was deluged with phone calls from business owners who “were in disbelief” that Livas might be fired.
Some residents said firing Livas would soil the city’s reputation and legacy as a well-managed community.
“Cities don’t recover from this type of action,” said Downey resident Randy Davis, a retired police chief of neighboring South Gate. “I trust the Downey City Council will make the right decision. Mr. Livas as done nothing but serve the city honorably.”
Support also came from the Downey Police Officers Association and the city employees union along with individual employees.
Residents who said they did not personally know Livas praised him for helping Downey become a high status city in the area.
“To those living in East Los Angeles, Downey was like the Hispanic Beverly Hills,” one resident said.
Each comment on behalf of Livas drew a round applause.
Rumors of Livas’ dismissal circulated in the community and in some local media after an evaluation of the city manager, city clerk and city attorney Dec. 9.
Livas worked as the community development director for the city of Bell Gardens before coming to Downey as community development director in 2010. He was promoted to assistant city manager in 2011 and appointed city manager Jan. 4, 2012, following the retirement of Gerald Caton.