A question hangs over City Hall. File photo.


In the midst of the pandemic, Eureka City Council meetings have largely been dominated by COVID-related issues. But even under current circumstances, the council needs to perform some of its regular business, such as holding performance evaluations for top city staff.

In fact, it seems that the council has set aside a fair amount of time for performance evaluations lately. Over the span of two weeks, during the height of the pandemic, the Eureka City Council has held four meetings to evaluate the performance of one or more of its top three city staffers. Those are the ones who work directly for the council — Eureka City Clerk Pam Powell, City Attorney Robert Black and City Manager Dean Lotter.

The council held closed session meetings on the matter on April 14, April 16, April 20 and again on April 27. Three of those were special, non-regular meetings, called only to discuss this particular matter.

Is there some reason the council is spending so much time on this? Was it prompted, or is it just business as usual? The minutes from these meetings are not released and — since it is a personnel matter — getting information about their nature is pretty difficult. 

The Outpost reached out to Powell. “In the past, the Council has met to set the evaluation criteria and then meets with each appointed person separately,” she said by email Tuesday. She said that she has not yet been at attendance for any of the recent meetings. 

Councilmember Kim Bergel was not able to tell the Outpost many details about the meetings either. When asked if performance reviews have taken this long before, Bergel said that she could not recall. She said that, initially, the council meets to “figure out the process” before holding the individual meetings.

Powell has worked at the City of Eureka since 1993, and has served as the city clerk since 2009. Black, the city attorney, is on contract — he’s not a full-time city employee. Lotter — who, as city manager, is the head of almost all city services — began work only at the end of December, and was hired after a nationwide search following the retirement of previous city manager Greg Sparks.

Bergel said that there will eventually be a report about whatever had been decided during this series of closed meetings. She was not certain, but said it may be on the agenda for the next city council meeting, which is scheduled for Tuesday, May 5.