Two Years Ago: Firefighters, Other Employees Celebrate Pinkerton’s Departure; Elected Officials Join In


Today marks the two year anniversary of this seminal Vanguard piece

Fiirefighters and elected officials gathered at Uncle Vito’s in April 2014 to celebrate the departure of City Manager Steve Pinkerton

On Friday, the Vanguard was tipped off that the firefighters were holding a celebration party for the departure of Davis City Manager Steve Pinkerton. Mr. Pinkerton had implemented a number of reforms such as staffing reductions, redeployment of personnel, boundary drop, and shared management services that the firefighters’ union had fought against last year.

Friday was City Manager Steve Pinkerton’s final day as Davis City Manager. He was hired by Incline Village back in February to be the General Manager there. And on Monday, Gene Rogers will officially begin work as Interim City Manager.

The Vanguard received a message: “I assume that you are aware of the celebration party called by Bobby at Vito’s Pizza for this evening, celebrating Steve’s departure. I have been told that some elected officials and some seeking a city council seat have been invited as well. Other invitees include members of the other City bargaining groups. Just thought you should be aware.”

The Vanguard has acquired a copy of the invite sent out on April 9 by PASEA (Program, Administrative and Support Employees Association) President Sara Williams, who posted on the PASEA Members Google Group: “Hi all, Just wanted to pass along to all of you that Bobby Weist from the Fire Department is going to host a get together (pizza, etc.) at Uncle Vito’s in Davis (524 2nd Street) on 4/25 @ 4:00 pm to celebrate the departure of our City Manager. If any of you are interested in attending, please e-mail me back so that I can [give] Bobby a head count.”

This is one example of the emails that were going around to at least the firefighters and PASEA. The Vanguard was tipped off to this after a number of employees complained that the event was in poor taste.


The Vanguard arrived around 4:30. As the clock reached the final seconds before 5:00, there was a loud audible countdown of “5-4-3-2-1” that was proceeded by a loud cheering, indicating that 5 pm had arrived.

In addition to about a dozen firefighters and some other employee groups – the number of people never topped 20 or 30 at any point in time – a number of elected officials came to the celebration, each one walking up to union president Bobby Weist and making the rounds.

These officials included: Mayor Pro Tem Dan Wolk, Councilmember Lucas Frerichs, Supervisor Don Saylor and School Board member and city council candidate Sheila Allen.

Some who attended indicated that they had no idea of the purpose of the gathering and believed it was an informal coming together of people there to drink beer after work.

One person indicated they were invited by Bobby Weist to come meet some current and former staff. They were a bit confused by the countdown and cheer.

Councilmember Lucas Frerichs has sent the Vanguard a statement.

“I was invited to Uncle Vito’s to have a beer and meet city employees – many of whom I’d not had the chance to meet previously. I was told in advance that the purpose for the gathering was ‘to get all the city labor groups together to start working together because Pinkerton is leaving,'” Councilmember Frerichs stated.

He added, “I arrived at Vito’s just before 6pm after attending the DavisRoots Demo Day event downtown that ran from 4:30-6pm. As I understand from the VG report there was some countdown/cheer at 5 pm, and I was certainly not present…again, arriving at approx. 5:55pm.”

Councilmember Frerichs continued, “I’m curious as to why the DV is also not reporting/highlighting the going away party/gathering in honor of Steve Pinkerton which took place the day before (Thursday24th), at another downtown restaurant, that DV and I both attended. I, and others, found it quite noticeable that only 2 councilmembers were present at that event – to say goodbye to Steve, thank him, and wish him well in IV….but no breaking VG story? Seems newsworthy to me.”

Neither Dan Wolk nor Don Saylor responded to Vanguard queries.

Back in November, the Vanguard learned of efforts by Bobby Weist to try to get Mayor Pro Tem Wolk and Councilmember Lucas Frerichs to fire Steve Pinkerton.

There was a special closed door session in November prior to Thanksgiving, regarding Mr. Pinkerton’s performance review.

In September, the Vanguard learned from many sources that the Davis Professional Firefighters Association President Bobby Weist was telling people that he had three votes on council and that Mr. Pinkerton would be fired by December.

At the same time, at least one councilmember told the Vanguard directly that they were approached by a contact on behalf of Mr. Weist, asking them to join with two other councilmembers at that time to terminate the contract of Mr. Pinkerton.  That councilmember indicated that they were not inclined to join that effort.

However, despite the claims of Mr. Weist to members of the public, the Vanguard was told by at least three councilmembers that they had no intention of firing Mr. Pinkerton.

The Vanguard learned at that time, by sources who opted not to go on the record, that there was an active effort to fire the city manager.  That said, there were not believed to be the votes to do so. These sources told the Vanguard back in November that Bobby Weist had been vocally telling people he had the votes to fire Steve Pinkerton.

While the effort to fire Mr. Pinkerton failed, Mr. Pinkerton took advantage of an opportunity to leave, and in February agreed to terms with Incline Village. He gave the city of Davis two and a half months to find an interim and Friday was his last day.

—David M. Greenwald reporting


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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35 thoughts on “Two Years Ago: Firefighters, Other Employees Celebrate Pinkerton’s Departure; Elected Officials Join In”

  1. nameless

    IMO Steve Pinkerton was an excellent city manager.  Because of his outstanding leadership, this city was pulled back from the economic brink, as well as pushed forward important projects, e.g. surface water project, innovation parks, road repair funding.  He also made some much needed personnel changes, forcing alterations that should have been accomplished years ago.  Hope all is well with him in his new job.  I don’t subscribe to wishing people ill or calling them names behind their backs – very tacky and low class, if you catch my drift.

    1. Michelle Millet

      I’m not condoning or condemning the employees course of action. Nor am I  making judgements about Pinkertons effectiveness. I’m just saying his employees didn’t like him for reasons that went beyond conntract negotiations. So I understand the sentiment behind the celebration, whether or not I agree with it.

      1. nameless

        Perhaps entrenched employees who were change averse didn’t like the status quo being altered.  Sometimes it is important to consider the source of discontent. For instance, Mr. Weist seemed to fight change in the Fire Dept. every step of the way, regardless of whether the changes improved things, and his words to the contrary notwithstanding.

        1. Frankly

          Show me a leader that is liked by his employees when he has to cut their jobs and pay, and I will show you a leader that is ineffective in his job… probably a closer match to the current CM.

          Drug addicts will like their dealer much better than they will the person responsible for helping them break their addiction.

        2. The Pugilist

          He had a tough job to do.  He had institutional opposition to it.  And yes, Pinkerton had a bit of an awkward personality and wasn’t the best at messaging it.

    2. hpierce

      IMO, Mr Pinkerton, out of 10 or so CM’s I knew, interacted with, might rise as high as third from the bottom.  But, I have to cut him some slack, as he was brought in as a “hit-man” (Krovosa agenda) and got bad advice on several important issues from questionable staff… the key one is no longer employed by the City.

      St Pinkerton did some good things, but miserably failed in others.

      The FD/Weist/union sponsored event, was, indeed, sophomoric, at best, and I can easily understand that it is viewed as worse.   I believe some “electeds” or those seeking office, were indeed ‘sucker-punched’ into attending.  I didn’t attend, nor would I have wanted to.

      I certainly don’t wish Steve ill… I wish him well… but he certainly was no ‘saint’, and I do react to those who wish to lionize him, making it seem like he was the best thing to serve the City since sliced bread.  IMO, he was very far from that.  He also managed to leave two distressed agencies (Stockton and Manteca) having participated in their distress, spike his income/years in Davis, move on to a state that has no income tax (safe from taxing his PERS pension, or his fully paid retiree medical).  Yeah, a “saint”.  Right.

      If you catch my drift…


    3. Barack Palin

      Good posts Nameless, I agree with you.  No way anyone should be condoning the actions of anyone who was celebrating his departure.  Pure bad taste.

  2. The Pugilist

    It was basically two bargaining units involved in this.  And a bunch of public officials who later claimed to have been duped by Bobby Weist.

    Times were tough, but a lot more employees came to the party that honored the work of Pinkerton than came to the celebration.

    Michelle: I get what you are saying.  How I think you could have put it is that while you understand why some of the employees disliked the previous city manager, it was inappropriate and unprofessional to express it with a party and countdown.

      1. The Pugilist

        Fine (although you seem to have inserted yourself into their business here), but I think it was less a story about the employees and more about the electeds

        1. Barack Palin

          Really, a party sponsored by the firefighters celebrating the departure of a city manager who made changes to their work rules that they didn’t like?  You’re okay with elected officials and candidates taking part in that?

    1. hpierce

       it was inappropriate and unprofessional to express it with a party and countdown.

      Absolutely correct, in my opinion.  But then, I also would not have attended an  event praising him for the quality of his service…  he got more recognition than many 25-35 year employees have… and, he actually cut off funding to recognizing long-term employees…  a bit ironic… did the City pay for his other going away gig?  That would be the height of hypocrisy…

  3. Misanthrop

    Seems like here say of the most malicious type. Do you have specifics? I know there are people who didn’t like Pinkerton. I’m sure that can be said about any boss who runs a business with hundreds of employees so unless you want to lay it out there with specific claims I wouldn’t put much stock in this type of attack.

  4. Misanthrop

    Steve Pinkerton and I became good friends when he worked here and I am sad that he left. I doubt there is anybody in Davis who misses Steve more than I do. On the day that all these people gathered to celebrate Steve’s departure I helped him pack up his office.

    Steve cared deeply about the city of Davis and whether he was right or wrong about what happened on his watch, Steve always acted in what he believed was the best interest of the city. I think that is the most you can ask for from a City Manager.

    Over the years Steve was here he needed to take on some powerful interests on behalf of the city, its taxpayers and its budget. There was significant push back from some of these interests who have influence with many public officials. When one of these groups invites local elected officials to a gathering it is not unreasonable for them to turn out.

    Although I miss Steve and his beautiful family  from being here in Davis I hold no animosity towards Lucas, Dan, Don or Sheila. I believe each of these people have served the community to the best of their ability and I’m supporting a number of them today as they seek re-election or a new office.

    Steve quit his job here and took the one in Incline for several reasons. Mostly he did so for his family to whom Steve is deeply committed. I once asked him if there was no pressure on him would he have stayed? He told me he didn’t know the answer to that. I took him at his word because often its hard to know what choice one would make in a hypothetical situation.

    So here we are a little more than a month before an election where three of these people are on the ballot and David republishes this piece because its the 2nd anniversary of Steve’s departure and not because he thinks it will be damaging to several candidates. That part is simply coincidental I’m sure. I can’t remember David, did you run this piece again on the first anniversary of Steve’s departure?

    1. nameless

      Thank you for this viewpoint.  My interactions with Steve Pinkerton were always very positive.  I didn’t always agree with everything he did, but I don’t expect to agree with everything a city manager does.  In general, he made the tough decisions that improved the city’s fiscal situation, as well as pushed crucial projects forward.  IMO, he was an excellent city manager, unlike the previous one, that I had little respect for.

  5. ryankelly

    The gathering was in extremely poor taste – juvenile in nature –  and should never have been held in a public location or involved public officials, who I believe were duped into attending.  These representatives went on to establish shared management of the Fire Department, etc. – opposed by the union – and have not shown any preferential treatment of the Fire Department.   I don’t know why you are running this piece, David.  This was put behind us and I think you are stirring the pot for no good reason.

    1. The Pugilist

      The fire issue has come back to light and is bubbling just below the surface.  I had completely forgotten about this story before the reprint.  I imagine we’ll be getting a lot of reminders in the next few weeks.

      1. David Greenwald Post author

        This kind of article gets comments, but not a lot of reads. It’s not even the most read article today. The West Sac article from yesterday has 7 times more reads and only three comments.

        1. Misanthrop

          David you put this article up because you want to see all of these people lose in June. The only reason you don’t say so is because of your non-profit status that does not allow you to take political positions. You have been running regular hit pieces against Dan Wolk. You had one up just last week about Cannery. My guess is that you even favor the amended plan for more smaller cheaper units at Cannery but constructed the story the way you did to attack Dan. Its was sad that you pretended to be reporting the news last week and made some of your readers who don’t understand what you are doing question whether Cannery was up to something nefarious. But today dredging up a two year old article and hiding your intentions behind an anniversary that falls just before an election without explaining to your readers that you favor Aguiar-Curry who advertises on your site is nothing short of sleazy.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            I don’t favor Aguiar-Curry. The only reason there is an ad up on the site for her is that she paid for it. I solicited Dan Wolk and Don Saylor as well.

  6. Michelle Millet

    There are a lot of relevant issues that need to be addressed by our city council and staff. The situation with the firefighters no longer seems to be one of them. I’m wondering why any bandwidth should be spent on it.

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      Michelle – realize they just authorized a new study on the fire station and firefighting. Also the union continues to try end shared services.

  7. Barack Palin

    It doesn’t hurt to remember some of the shenanigans that occurred in the past so as we don’t forget and let them repeat.  I felt David’s coverage of this event was some of the Vanguard’s greatest reporting and enjoyed the article today in remembrance of that event.  What’s interesting is that the council members that did attend had some votes that went the firefighter’s way.  Was that just coincidence?

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