The former city manager and former community services director from Greenfield have sued the city, its mayor and two councilmembers, alleging they ousted the city manager after he refused their order to fire the community services director over his pro-cannabis business stance.
Michael “Mic” Steinmann, the former community services director, and Jaime Fontes, the former city manager, served Mayor Jesus OlveraGarcia and councilmembers Lance Walker and Leah Santibanez with lawsuits at an Oct. 9 City Council meeting.
Steinmann, an attorney whose biography and contact information is still listed on the city’s website, was hired in 2013. Beginning in 2015, he was tasked with developing and implementing Greenfield’s cannabis ordinance and to work with prospective cannabis businesses and recruit them to the city. In 2016, after the ordinance was implemented and several businesses began going through the permitting process, Steinmann claims Santibanez and Walker alleged he was “too close” to the marijuana industry.
Fontes, also an attorney who was hired as city manager in May 2017, says he was summoned to a meeting with OlveraGarcia two weeks after he took the job; the mayor, Fontes says, told him Steinmann “has to go” and claimed Steinmann benefited personally from his alignment with cannabis businesses.
Attorney Vince Hurley, who represents the city, says Fontes was an at-will employee, and if the council didn’t want him to serve any longer, it was their right. Same goes, Hurley says, for Steinmann, who served the city manager.
In his suit, Fontes says OlveraGarcia told him he believed his election gave him a mandate to rid Greenfield of all cannabis businesses. “I thought Greenfield would provide an excellent opportunity for a multicultural community to move forward based on new cannabis revenue,” Fontes says. “I knew there had been some bad blood in the city over it, but I didn’t know it was that extreme.”
Fontes was fired on June 16. Former Carmel finance director Paul Wood was hired as city manager in Greenfield on Sept. 25, and the job came with a hefty pay raise: $240,000, compared to the $165,000 the city paid Fontes.
The day after he was hired, Wood placed Steinmann on paid administrative leave. Two days later, he fired him.
“You can connect the dots. They got the city manager they wanted because they doubled the salary, and for $240,000 the council had a city manager bought and paid for to be their lap dog and do what they wanted,” Steinmann says, “and what they wanted was to get rid of me.”