Coming out of a city council closed session lasting more than an hour, city officials announced a separation agreement under which Bill Rawlings will leave his position of city manager. Rawlings' official departure date is Nov. 30, but he was not at Tuesday night's meeting and his interim replacement has already been named.
Rob Johnson, currently serving as the city's senior manager of community improvement and outreach, was appointed by a 5-0 council vote as acting city manager, effective immediately. Johnson's future in that role will be determined by the new city council, which will be formed Dec. 4, when newly elected Mayor Scott Mann and new council member Greg August join returning council members John Denver, Tom Fuhrman and Wallace Edgerton.
Denver, the outgoing mayor, would not comment about the specifics of Rawlings' departure. Council and city staff members face a fine of $2,000 for violation of a non-disparagement agreement reached between the parties.
In the past, three of the five city council members -- Denver, Darcy Kuenzi and Sue Kristjansson -- have been vocal in their support of Rawlings and the direction the city was taking. Even so, the council's 4-0 vote to approve the separation agreement -- with Kuenzi abstaining -- was a clear indication of the council's decision to support, in the wording of the city press release, a decision "mutually agreed is in the best interest of Mr. Rawlings and the city."
Johnson said he has not spoken to Rawlings since the decision was reached and would not speculate on Rawlings' reasons for wanting to leave.
"I love this community and I'm here to serve it," said Johnson, 43. "I'm committed to doing the best I can. I'm acting city manager beginning tomorrow, and the main goal is to keep communication with the public open."
According to the separation agreement, Rawlings will receive a severance payment of $183,667 -- the equivalent of 11 months' salary -- plus a merit payment of $9,500 representing a "satisfactory performance evaluation." He will also receive full-time employment and health benefits for up to six months and is eligible to apply for unemployment.
Rawlings had served as city manager since January of 2011. Previously, he was director of housing and redevelopment for the City of Vista. Johnson, 43, has been with the City of Menifee since September 2009. Prior to that, he worked for the cities of Corona, Murrieta and Oceanside.