BREAKING: Robb Davis Explains Abstention on City Manager Vote

Davis-Robb-HS(Editor’s note Davis Mayor Pro Tem Robb Davis has issued the following statement on his decision to abstain from voting on the hiring of incoming City Manager Dirk Brazil).

by Robb Davis

My decision to abstain from Monday night’s City Council vote on a contingent offer to Dirk Brazil has raised questions about my intent.  I would note the following:

  1. The process of hiring the City Manager was undertaken in closed session.  While some in the community question this process I believe it is necessary to enable us to conserve the anonymity of candidates who request it.  It is clear to me that some of the fine candidates who applied would not have done so had the process not permitted anonymity.
  2. My decision to abstain should be understood as a decision to not participate in the vote.  That is the plain meaning of abstention—non-participation.
  3. The reasons for my decision to not participate in the vote arose in the closed session and therefore I am not at liberty to share them.  However, I did share them with my colleagues on the City Council and the consultant we hired to manage the process, all of who participated in the closed sessions. I did not seek my colleagues’ concurrence for my decision, but I did my best to explain my rationale to them. Though I cannot speak for them, I think I successfully described my reasons in an understandable way.
  4. My decision to not participate in this vote should not be construed as some “back door” or veiled means to vote “no” while preserving the appearance of neutrality.  Had I wanted to vote “no” I would have done so. In abstaining I am neither reserving the right to question the decision later nor engaging in some kind of political machination.  I merely concluded that I could not participate in the vote and indicated that via my abstention.
  5. I did not take my decision lightly or make it quickly.  I considered it for some time and, so as to guard the integrity of the process, did not consult with anyone about it.

I very much look forward to working with Mr. Brazil and my colleagues on City Council in the months and years ahead to address the many challenges our city faces. Mr. Brazil will find me to be a hard worker, a frank interlocutor and a collaborative problem solver. I expect that he too will work hard, build a solid team, and position the City Council to navigate the many decisions before us. My sense from my limited interactions with Dirk is that we will work very well together.

I do not believe that it is necessary or desirable for the City Council to reach unanimity on all or even most decisions.  What is necessary, and what I am committed to as a member of the City Council, is to conduct our business with respect for one another and for the processes that guide our work. I will continue to work with my colleagues to make decisions that I believe are in the best interests of this community.

If anyone has a question about this decision I would invite you to contact me at  Keep in mind, however, that I will not be able to share information from closed session discussions.

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. Bill

    Thank you Robb for providing additional information.  In our board meetings, people exercise their right to abstain from voting for all sorts of reasons.  If we are called into an “executive/closed session,” we too are bound by confidentiality.

    The growth-edge for the public is to not speculate on reasons for the abstention.  This is a difficult task indeed, but the ability to abstain is there for a reason.  From all that I know about you, you are a person of high integrity.  So unless someone is questioning your integrity, I’m not even sure why this is an issue.

    I certainly hope we can put this one to rest without further speculation or unfounded rumors.

  2. Matt Williams

    Thank you Robb for clearing the air.  I look forward to you and Dirk (and all of us) celebrating many positive accomplishments in the coming weeks, months and years.

    1. Frankly

      I was thinking the same.

      This was a “I can’t tell you why, and here is the reason that I cannot tell you why, but I told some people that I could tell why, and they seem to understand, yet they also cannot tell you why.”

      So in the end we are left with the same questions but greater intrigue.

      I cannot imagine what issue surfaced to cause Robb to recuse himself.  Generally, those things are conflict of interest things.  I suppose that it is possible that in the course of the interviews and background checks there might have been some surprise information disclosed that caused a concern about a conflict of interest.   But I cannot come up with anything that would warrant so much confidentiality.  Does the new CM have some obscurely connected relationship with Robb?  Does the new CM invest in businesses that kill baby seals or frack drill?

      And if it was a more general concern, why would only Robb and not the other CC members take issue?

      The only air cleared up here is the some explanation of the process, but nothing on the why.

      But I will have to trust that the why is a confidential matter.  Such is the case with a lot of HR-related topics.

        1. Barack Palin

          There is a big difference between abstain and recuse.

          An example of a abstention might be that one didn’t feel they had enough info to make a decision at this time so they decided not to vote.

          An example of recusal might be that one had a mother that the candidate worked for so they decided that they should recuse themselves from voting due to personal circumstances.

        1. Matt Williams

          Barack, if you actually knew Robb’s reason, how would that knowledge change the on-the-ground realities we (as individuals and as a community) currently face?

    1. Frankly

      Because despite all of the past sacrifices made by heroes to ensure our freedom of expression, our thoughts and words can and will be used against us to harm us and harm others connected with us… that is unless you frogmarch to the forced narrative.

        1. South of Davis

          Bill wrote:

          > Bill Habicht. Done.

          Thanks for starting things out, my reason for not using my name is that my life in Davis is better if I can smile at everyone in Davis when I walk down the street and not have people yelling at me saying that without a plastic bag ban the environment is doomed or that without a MRAP the blood of dead cops will be running in the streets…

  3. Tia Will


    “our thoughts and words can and will be used against us to harm us and harm others connected with us”

    You mean like the list of people that you were going to be compiling for public flagellation because they do not believe that the MRAP is appropriate in our community and had the temerity to share those thoughts by using their words in a public forum ?

    1. Frankly

      No – the list of people that demanded we return it if and when and only if and when someone is hurt or killed when it is obvious that the MRAP could have prevented it.

      What skin in the game do these people have if not being held accountable for their actions?

  4. Aggie

    I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around this one.  Hiring the City Manager is possibly the most important job function the council members have.  It sits at the nexus between policy and execution.  For our future mayor to “pass” on this vote seems pretty serious to me.  We elect these people to make decisions.  Very unsatisfying explanation.

    On a side note, the confidentiality of closed sessions is breached on a routine basis. I suspect that Robb’s “confidential” position is already circulating.

    1. Rich RifkinWDE 73

      I have not found this to be my experience. For more than 10 years I have been speaking, often confidentially, with members of the City Council for background and other reasons for my Enterprise column. Never once in all that time has any member of the DCC ever broken the confidence of another member in a closed session discussion to me. I cannot say the same is true for all members of the city staff, however.

  5. Davis Progressive

    robb is wrong here.  there is nothing to preclude him from explaining publicly his rationale for abstaining.  in fact, having aired this in the public, he has raised the issue even further and owes it to the public to explain why he has failed to make a decision on what is perhaps the most important issue before him.

      1. Michelle Millet

        I think Robb owes me an explanation as to why he barely ever has time to hang out with me anymore, it’s like he is really busy with this new responsibility that he takes very seriously.

  6. Miwok

    Maybe he knows why cities and counties have to hire consultants to do the hiring when they have HR departments? Are the departments in these cities and counties so partisan they cannot make a fair decision, or are they so incompetent they cannot perform as anything but payroll clerks pretending to be an HR department?

    Kudos, Mr Davis, for explaining your vote, and if the explanation is not satisfactory to others, you explained why you could not reveal more.

    1. South of Davis

      Miwok wrote:

      > Are the departments in these cities and counties so partisan they cannot make a fair decision

      Lucky we didn’t have any partisan people involved with hiring the Davis City Manager…

  7. Rich RifkinWDE 73

    To my mind, how or why anyone voted on the CM is all a moot point. Dirk Brazil is our new city manager, and hopefully he will do a good job and part of that is working well with the City Council. Time will tell. The city has a lot of big challenges and opportunities ahead, and for those paying attention, there will be plenty to judge Mr. Brazil’s performance and that of the members of the Council.

    It’s a mistake to get lost in unimportant details or think too much of them. Most important is that this Council figures out a sustainable path for our labor contracts, figures out how we can finance our needed road repairs, and hopefully improves the income side of the ledger for Davis with things like an innovation park or more retail options.

    1. Davis Progressive

      why is a moot point?  they voted for him, the question is why did they vote for him.  you’re correct that we’ll judge his performance, but it’s nice to be forewarned.  obviously robb and robb alone had concerns.  unfortunately, because this is a private process we don’t get to know what those were.  i find that troubling.

  8. Tia Will



    On a side note, the confidentiality of closed sessions is breached on a routine basis. I suspect that Robb’s “confidential” position is already circulating.”

    This may be. But I can tell  you that if the confidentiality of a closed session is breached, it will not be because it was breached by Robb Davis.


  9. dlemongello

    My thoughts are 1)  I can not imagine Robb breaching confidentiality 2) It bothers me some that he “chose not to participate” in something very important that is his job as CC member 3)  But if the process was so flawed and he was not in a position to change it meaningfully, I respect his choice (of course I do not know if the latter was the case or the reason).

  10. noname

    Maybe a lawyer out there can offer a definitive response, but I think Mr. Davis’ interpretation of the Brown Act is tortured if not completely incorrect. There is nothing in state law that I know of that would prohibit him from explaining why he voted the way he did. He is certainly well within his rights not to. But then he should just tell his constituents that he doesn’t want to explain why he abstained.

  11. Biddlin

    All this speculation over a very common act in such matters causes me to once again ponder why any sound soul would want to try and represent such a suspicious and ungrateful lot. I find myself assuring my hosts, who’s  daughter will be at UCD, in the Spring, that you really are a more civil lot than they might presume by reading recent Vanguard stories and comments. Had he voted, and then one of the rabid readers learned of some remote conflict, I can imagine the uproar, from the usual suspects.


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