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San Bernardino City Hall is seen Wednesday. Designed by César Pelli, the forward-thinking building was enclosed in a glass sheath. Due to seismic risk, the building was vacated in 2017, but a push is on to renovate and reopen it. (Photo by David Allen, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)
San Bernardino City Hall is seen Wednesday. Designed by César Pelli, the forward-thinking building was enclosed in a glass sheath. Due to seismic risk, the building was vacated in 2017, but a push is on to renovate and reopen it. (Photo by David Allen, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)
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Former San Bernardino City Manager Charles Montoya, who was fired Wednesday night after only seven months on the job, will walk away with an additional $325,000 of the city’s money.

Montoya, who was hired in October, will receive the equivalent of 12 months’ base pay in severance pay, according to city spokesperson Jeff Kraus.

The normally fractious City Council voted unanimously to fire Montoya a week after he fired an administrator who raised concerns about a plan to renovate City Hall.

It took the city nine months, including at least one false start, to hire Montoya as a permanent replacement for former city manager Rob Field. Montoya was the city’s seventh city manager in 12 years.

On Wednesday, the council appointed as the acting city manager. The council will decide how to permanently fill the position at a future meeting.

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Councilmember Ben Reynoso, who had originally voted against appointing Montoya, said Friday the city was better off without him though he declined to get into specifics.

“I’m not that surprised that he had to go,” Reynoso said. “I was planning, on my way out, to say that he needs to go in order to get San Bernardino back on the right track.”

Reynoso lost his bid for reelection in the March 5 primary election.

Councilmember Damon Alexander, who also voted against hiring Montoya in October and lost his reelection bid in November, offered this Friday: “I’d like to thank Charles Montoya for his service to the city of San Bernardino and wish him the best of luck in his endeavors, wherever he may land next.”

State privacy laws regarding personnel decisions mean the reason Montoya was fired may never be known.

But his firing came a week after former city finance director Barbara Whitehorn told the council Montoya had fired her after she reported the estimated $80 million cost to renovate City Hall was closer to $120 million. The building has been closed since Memorial Day 2017.

The council hired Montoya after former Salinas City Manager Steve Carrigan .

Montoya was formerly the city manager of Avondale, Arizona. At the time he was hired in San Bernardino, he was suing Avondale, alleging breach of contract and defamation of his character. A from his previous employer alleged Montoya received reimbursements he was not owed, among other missteps. , as of March 27, Montoya was in the process of settling the claim.

Before working in Avondale, Montoya was the city manager of Watsonville, outside Santa Cruz. He arrived there as a defendant in a lawsuit filed on behalf of two former police detectives in Florence, Arizona, where Montoya had worked for two and a half years as town manager. Detectives had accused Montoya of covering up corruption in Florence. He denied the allegations in 2015.

According to Reynoso, the San Bernardino council was settling when it offered Montoya the city manager job last fall.

“It was such a botched process,” Reynoso said. “If we do not agree with the candidates that we are left with, we are entitled through the contract with the (recruiting) firm to another search. But the council felt like this was going to be the best we could get.”

The council has yet to decide on the process to permanently replace Montoya, but Reynoso doesn’t want his colleagues to rush into anything.

“This time, though, I hope we take our time,” Reynoso said. Choosing a new city manager “felt like the most important decision of my professional life.”

Alexander, meanwhile, said the city needs to start from scratch.

“We need to hire a recruiting firm and put our best foot forward to hire our next city manager,” Alexander said. When asked if the council should hire the same recruiting firm as last time — Berkeley-based Koff & Associates — Alexander replied with a sharp “no.”

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