City Hired Finance Director; City Attorney Retires as City Searches for New Community Development Director

City Hall

It is a time of some turnover for the city of Davis, as the city announced the hire of a finance director for the first time in several years.  In the meantime, the city has put out RFPs for a new city attorney, as longtime city attorney, Harriet Steiner, who is contracted through her firm, has announced she will retire, while the city continues to look for a new Community Development Director, after Ashley Feeney left in May to go back to the private sector.

City Manager Mike Webb announced in a press release Wednesday afternoon that he had hired Nitish Sharma as the City’s Finance Director, effective August 27, 2018.

Mr. Sharma has served ten years as a municipal finance officer, most recently for West Sacramento as their budget manager.

The release noted that he has significant experience implementing sound financial procedures and strategies. He is the chapter chair for the California Society of Municipal Finance Officers, Sacramento Valley region.

In the meantime, the city is attempting to fill the position of Community Development Director.  Mike Webb told the Vanguard they have some promising candidates and they plan to do their first round of interviews next week.

He said, “Hoping that by the end of October we can have someone aboard.”

In the interim, Heidi Tschudin continues to serve in the interim capacity.

Mr. Webb told the Vanguard, “I want to ensure that we get the right skills and fit.”

While Harriet Steiner has not officially announced she will retire, it is general knowledge that she will and the city, as of July 16, put out an RFP for new legal services.

The RFP closes on August 31.

It indicates: “The City of Davis requests interested full service law firms to submit a Proposal to provide legal services for the City of Davis.”

It notes: “The City’s decision to issue this Request for Proposals is the result of a policy decision to periodically evaluate the legal services it receives from outside counsel.  It does not reflect dissatisfaction with the services currently being provided. The City currently contracts with a full-service legal firm for all legal assistance.”

Mike Webb told the Vanguard, “She will be here (within reason) until we secure a contract for services ongoing.”

In the meantime, the position of Finance Director is one for which the Vanguard has for some time identified the need.

Nitish Sharma graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration with Accountancy emphasis from the California State University, Sacramento, and is a Certified Public Accountant.

“I am excited Nitish will be joining our City of Davis team. Davis programs and citizens will benefit greatly from his vast experience in fiscal management, advanced accounting, budgeting, and utility rate setting and implementation” said Mayor Brett Lee.

Mr. Sharma will be responsible for managing the City’s Finance Department, which includes 15 full-time staff members, and management of the City and the Capital Improvement Program budgets, accounts payable, business licenses, utility billing, revenue collection, financial reporting, financial planning and liaison to the Finance and Budget Commission.

“Nitish is a strong addition to our management team. He has a tremendous amount of practical operations experience and a proven record of pursuing industry best practices.  Moreover, Nitish has technology acumen, a proven commitment to community involvement and an incredible enthusiasm for the work. We are lucky to have Nitish and I look forward to the contributions that he will bring to our team and to our community,” stated City Manager Mike Webb.

“I am excited to join the City of Davis and work alongside the City Manager and other Department Heads to help make sure that the City stays true to the motto of ‘All Things Right and Relevant’ while maintaining fiscal responsibility and transparency” stated Mr. Sharma.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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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. Jim Hoch

    Sounds like “don’t waste your time bidding on this”.

    “The City’s decision to issue this Request for Proposals is the result of a policy decision to periodically evaluate the legal services it receives from outside counsel.  It does not reflect dissatisfaction with the services currently being provided. The City currently contracts with a full-service legal firm for all legal assistance.”

    1. Richard McCann

      From discussions with some relevant folks at the City, they have NOT been satisfied with Harriet’s performance.

      I have had problems with the advice she has given the Council and where she has overstepped her expertise. I remember several incidents where she asserted knowledge about water and energy issues that I knew as a professional in those fields to be incorrect, and that she did not accept the corrections to her statements. She also gave the Council incorrect information on whether the meetings should be closed on the waste collection franchise transfer, because once the City decided against exercising its right of first refusal, it was no longer a real estate transaction covered by the Brown Act.

  2. David Greenwald

    The council makes two hires directly – city manager and city attorney.  I very much disagree with your assessment based on my conversations with several on the current counsel.

    1. Jim Hoch

      They may be some inside knowledge that I am not privy to.  However having been on one side or the other for well over 1,000 professional service RFP’s  that would be a huge red flag for me.

    2. Howard P

      As best (pun intended) as I can recall, the City has used MHA (now, BBK) for 33 years now… pretty much all staff around then are retired, passed, or both…

      I’d take it at ‘face value’… but, given some past comments, if the City DIDN’T re-evaluate with a RFQ/RFP process, @ the time the main legal eagle retires from her firm, tongues would be wagging big time… damned if you do, etc.

      I think the message is clear that BBK is more than welcome to submit a proposal, and may the most responsive firm, with “pencils sharpened” as to price, prevail.

      [Harriet also served as City Attorney for the City of Lincoln]

      Sidebar (pun also intended)… first met Harriet in 1985 when MHA first replaced our in-house attorney (a couple of which were real “clucks”)… was impressed during the first project (update of Subdivisions section of the Muni Code) we worked on together, and my esteem for her professionally and personally, only grew.

      It isn’t just the firm, it is the person assigned to “lead” the firm’s efforts… Harriet knew exactly which members of her team should be put on the field for a given “play”… they were all great… helluva QB… I, for one, am more inclined to thank her for her service, and wish her well in her future endeavors, than to worry about how a press release/interview is interpreted…

      1. David Greenwald

        All true. Where things went south is the whole handling of the Picnic Day incident and also the approval of the hire of John McGinness with absolutely no background check. In a lot of ways that took out both the previous city manager and the city attorney. Had she not told them that she was going to retire, they would have done the change sooner.

        1. Howard P

          One must remember that the City Attorney can only advise  and generate options, disclosing the pros and cons, legally…. if CM/CC disregards the advice,  or chooses sub-optimal options, then the CA is charged with making the best of the situation, with an eye towards the City prevailing in any legal action.

          Not easy work… you have to have been behind the closed doors, with boots on the ground, to appreciate it.

          1. David Greenwald

            But one of the complaints is that the city attorney failed to advise properly on several aspects of the Picnic Day issue, including the fact that the council would not get to see the McGregor Scott report.

        2. Howard P

          Unless you are privy to the actual advice, what you might be seeing is what those you are talking to are saying… could well be that they took a sub-optimal option, and then it was her place to defend that…

          I know I was not privy to the discussions…

        3. David Greenwald

          What I was privy to was what multiple sources told me with regards to the city attorney.  And my understanding, though I was not involved in the issues that Richard McCann raise above, his comments gibe with what I was told as well.  Basically council was going to do a performance evaluation and she said don’t bother, I’m going to retire (and then dragged that out for a considerable period of time).

        4. Howard P

          David, even if Ms Steiner erred, how many times have you erred in the last 35 years?  Yeah, those working in the public sector need to be perfect, as you and all so judge it… got it…

        5. David Greenwald

          I’m not sure of your point here.  My efforts here have been to explain that the council has been looking to make a change and explain why.  Do you dispute this?

        6. Howard P

          As written, no…

          As “implied”,

          Had she not told them that she was going to retire, they would have done the change sooner.

          I definitely question that… seeing as how the current council was not seated in the time frame you cite…

          And, much like someone who lives at an address starting with 1600, you dissemble…

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