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Rohnert Park finance chief abruptly quits

  • Sandy Lipitz.

The abrupt retirement this week of Rohnert Park's longtime finance director marks the latest development in a messy City Hall conflict that broke wide open this summer.

Sandy Lipitz on Thursday confirmed she told City Manager Gabe Gonzalez on Tuesday that she was retiring immediately. She declined further comment.

Lipitz, whose official title was director of administrative services, and Gonzalez clashed publicly starting in June when he criticized her work, saying her budget information and analyses were unreliable.

Lipitz, who spent 21 years with the city, then charged, through an attorney, that Gonzalez was targeting her unfairly and trying to force her out because of her willingness to disagree with him.

Soon, her attorney, Scott Steever, was working on a separation agreement between Lipitz and the city.

He did not respond to a request for comment Thursday about whether there was any ongoing legal action involving Lipitz and the city.

Gonzalez was out of the state on vacation and unavailable Thursday for comment.

Rohnert Park Mayor Jake Mackenzie, who worked with Lipitz since he first joined the council in 1996, said he wished her well and that she “worked long and hard for the city,” but that he could not comment further because her departure was a personnel issue.

Asked, in regards to Gonzalez's criticisms of Lipitz, whether the finance department under her leadership had contributed to the city's fiscal struggles, Mackenzie said “no.”

Budget deficits that the city began to ring up in the last decade — the hole grew to $10 million in 2009 — resulted from “major policy decisions” by the council on pension and salary benefits, along with a sewer rate rollback that voters pushed through, Mackenzie said.

“These were not decisions that were made by the finance department,” he said.

At the same time, though, he endorsed Gonzalez's efforts to guide the city into the black. Mackenzie said that Gonzalez and his predecessor, interim city manager John Dunn, had steered the city onto a fiscally sustainable course.

“We're in a much better position than we were three years ago,” Mackenzie said.

The city is slowly emerging from years of red ink. Its deficit stood at $445,000 in November.

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