Bill Rawlings Leaves as Menifee City Manager; City Council Names Staff Member Rob Johnson Interim Replacement

BILL RAWLINGS The first change in Menifee city government since the Nov. 6 election was made Tuesday...

The first change in Menifee city government since the Nov. 6 election was made Tuesday night -- a full two weeks before two new city council members are sworn in.

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.

Although neither Denver nor Johnson would comment on whether Rawlings resigned or was fired, Denver did say Rawlings initiated the process.

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