Interim Milpitas Police Chief Steve Pangelinan, second from right, stepped in as the acting city manager at a budget study session that City Manager Tom Williams abruptly left on Thursday night. Photo by Aliyah Mohammed
Interim Milpitas Police Chief Steve Pangelinan will now serve as the acting city manager while City Manager Tom Williams remains on paid administrative leave. Milpitas City Council voted unanimously to appoint Pangelinan to fill both key roles in the city during a special meeting Tuesday afternoon.
The bulk of the 23-minute meeting — held at noon inside city hall’s Council Chambers and saw few people from the public attend — was spent in closed session discussing two issues related to Williams, two potential lawsuits in which the city would be a defendant and the role of acting city manager.
After the meeting, City Attorney Christopher Diaz announced there was no reportable action taken out of closed session.
The announcement of Williams being placed on leave came a day after he abruptly left Milpitas City Hall without explanation at the end of a May 18 council closed session and was replaced on the dais by Pangelinan.
Williams, the city’s top administrator for nearly 12 years, has been in hot water since being accused of using a city charge card to pay for his private attorney. He has threatened Mayor Rich Tran and the city with a $1 million lawsuit for harassment and defamation.
Pangelinan currently serves as the interim police chief on an hourly basis after serving as the full-time police chief for four years, and 30 years with Milpitas’ police force. He retired from the city Dec. 30, but stayed on as interim chief to give the city time to find someone to fill his shoes.
Now, Pangelinan will also serve as the acting city manager on a part-time, interim basis while Williams is on leave “until further notice,” according to Diaz.
“Given the need for continuity and a highly trained professional to lead the city, staff recommends hiring Steve Pangelinan on a part-time, interim basis from May 30, 2017 through May 29, 2018, or such earlier date as the city Manager returns from leave or the city or Mr. Pangelinan terminate the appointment,” according to the city’s staff report on this matter.
Tina Murphy, the city’s human resources director, told the Post when Pangelinan was appointed interim police chief that Pangelinan — whose total pay and benefits amounted to $349,393.82 in 2016 — would be limited to working 40 hours a week, and could not exceed 960 hours per fiscal year.
With the added role of acting city manager, his hours still cannot exceed 960 hours per fiscal year.
Pangelinan will continue to be paid the hourly rate he was being paid as interim police chief for the acting city manager, $115.38 a hour, or $4,615.20 a week. He won’t receive any benefits, vacation or holidays, city staff reports state.
Mayor Rich Tran, who returned from military duty with the Air National Guard this week, said after the meeting that he did not sit in the closed session.
“I wasn’t here when all that stuff happened, I was away in Guam on military duty, now that I’m back, I have faith in our chief to protect our community,” Tran added. “I always believed he is one of the best chiefs around in the Silicon Valley and I can’t really comment on anything else.”
Others on the council could not say much either about the change.
“I think the chief is a great guy, but I cannot comment on this,” Councilman Anthony Phan said.
Meanwhile, Vice Mayor Marsha Grilli and Councilman Bob Nunez both declined to comment about Pangelinan’s appointment and directed further questions to Diaz. Councilman Garry Barbadillo did not respond to requests for comment.
Diaz and Murphy did not respond to multiple requests for comment by email and phone by press time.
Murphy previously told the Post that laws like the California Public Employees’ Pension Reform Act of 2013 requires a 180-day “wait” period before a retiree can return to work for a public agency.
She said this “wait” period was not applicable for the appointment of a public safety member to a required public safety position, as was the case for the interim police chief appointment.
For the acting city manager position, public employee retirement law allows a retiree to fill the position of someone on leave as long as the term only lasts one year and is deemed a specialized role.
Despite numerous calls and emails, Pangelinan could not be reached for comment by press time.