Santa Clara City Manager Announces Retirement
By Robert Haugh
Late last Friday, Interim City Manager Rajeev Batra announced via a city press release that he is retiring effective March 30, 2017. Batra spent 15 years in Santa Clara and 34 years total in public service. We congratulate him on his retirement. He’s not going out with the drama of a prolonged speech, streamers and video tribute that many WWE stars get.
Batra stepped into a difficult situation when controversial city manager Julio Fuentes was put on paid management leave almost a year ago, then departed two months later.
Our sources at city hall tell us that Batra was genuinely a nice guy who treated people well. That’s probably what the city needed after the Fuentes departure.
But our sources also say that Batra seemed to be in over his head at times. We noticed and reported an example of that from the city’s goal-setting meeting last month. Batra pushed back on an idea to separate the stadium authority from the city council, saying the charter wouldn’t allow it. But when it was pointed out that there’s no such language in the charter, it was an embarrassing moment for him. Oops.
Batra also seemed unsure how to handle the 49ers and the struggle over documents that the city council and auditors are demanding. He would say at council meetings that he went to the team headquarters and saw the documents, but he did not read them and could not say what info they contained. Huh?
So, Santa Clara will begin a search for a new city manager. That person will have a great opportunity to make some changes, especially with the mayor and council pushing for more transparency at city hall. That’s something that wasn’t happening with Fuentes or Batra.
Let’s hope the council finds someone who is a good guy or gal who supports openness and community involvement. That would be good for Santa Clara. It would be good to find someone who understands the city charter, too.