Peter Fernandez, the thoroughly sleazy Public Works Director for the City of Salem, announced he's retiring effective January 6, 2023.
This is cause for joy among those of us who follow goings-on at City Hall closely enough to be aware of what a disaster Fernandez has been during the fifteen years Salem has had to put up with his lies, dissembling, and poor decisions.
It's remarkable that Fernandez wasn't fired long ago, given how poorly he's performed as Public Works Director. This shows that Salem is willing to put up with a lot of crap, so long as the crap-producer is part of the Good Old Boys/Girls Network.
Hopefully the new City Manager, Keith Stahley, will hire a replacement for Fernandez who is much better suited for the job -- ideally someone who isn't now a Public Works manager, since those people have the stench of Fernandez associated with them.
From what I've said so far, does it sound like I can't stand Peter Fernandez? I sure hope so, since that's exactly how I feel.
Here's nine blog posts that I've written about Fernandez' failings. The first one set the stage for my subsequent criticisms of Fernandez, so I'll share a fairly lengthy excerpt from that post.
This is a case study of how city government shouldn't work.
Here the Public Works Director, Peter Fernandez, ignored the law, facts, expert advice, advisory committee recommendations, and lots of public testimony so he could keep a back-room verbal promise to the U.S. Bank president, Ryan Allbritton, to cut the five large, healthy, beautiful trees down.
The extra-legal promise itself is bad enough. Worse, Fernandez made that promise two years before the bank started the required process of filing an application to remove the trees.
Even so, Public Works Director Fernandez was all set to order that the trees be pruned, rather than removed, until bank president Allbritton reminded him of that "just between us" deal they'd made together. It didn't matter that Albritton was unable to give a single coherent reason why the trees needed to be killed.
After Fernandez spoke with the bank president, everything changed.
Allbritton got an unusual second chance to argue his extremely flimsy tree-killing case. He lobbied city councilors, who weren't bothered by Allbritton's mention of the verbal promise.
Maybe because this is the way the City of Salem habitually does things under its current leadership -- working out deals with special interests behind the scenes, then going through a show of holding public hearings and issuing a formal decision.
Like I say throughout the report, outrageous. There's more juicy details in the 18 pages, of course.
The report includes an opinion letter from my land use and environmental law attorney which demolishes (1) Public Works Director Fernandez' false claim that he was obligated by an ordinance to allow the trees to be cut down, and (2) the repeated inaccurate assertion by City staff that Fernandez' decision couldn't be appealed.