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Wade in the fairway 

It’s officially official. It is with great sadness, glee, melancholy, and a little more glee that I inform you that this esteemed column is about to lose one of its longtime stars. Atascadero City Manager Wade McKinney is fleeing “The Heart of the Central Coast” for the—quick, what’s the hoity toitiest organ?—upturned nose of Southern California.

The nasal passage in question, for those of you who were thinking about paying McKinney a visit, is Indian Wells, home to four luxury resort hotels with world-class spas, championship golf, and tennis. It’s basically where pasty rich people go to escape reality. Never again will Wade suffer the indignity of setting a pedicured foot on unmanicured grass. Never again will he be the butt of a negative grand jury report … unless they have grand juries in Indian Wells, in which case he’ll probably totally be the butt of many a negative grand jury report.

For those of you who don’t have enough digits to keep track of McKinney’s numerous imbroglios—given that he’s been city manager since 1997, you’d have to be Cthulhu to have any hope of keeping count—here’s a by-no-means-comprehensive account of some of my favorite McKinney moments. (Feel free to blast Green Day’s “Time of Your Life” on your iPod, radio, stereo, boom box, laptop, record player, 8 track, cassette player, or phonograph.)

In 2008 Atascadero had to shell out $30,000 to settle two lawsuits filed by former executive director of the redevelopment agency Marty Tracey, whose position was eliminated to supposedly help patch a budget deficit. The real story was that years before, the city of Atascadero decided to start eminent domain proceedings to seize Sue and Pat Gaughan’s house. Tracey called the couple’s house and left a message referencing “eminent domain” and the shit hit the fan. Rather than acknowledge that the city was planning to use eminent domain and that the decision had his full support, McKinney blamed Tracey, who just happened to be doing his job. Of course, McKinney was just exercising good management skills: When your ass is on the line for a decision you made, stick the blame with someone lower on the totem pole and payscale.

And who could forget the still-bizarre circumstances surrounding the departure of former police chief Jim Mulhall, who announced he was “taking a break” after just four years on the job? What the city didn’t tell its residents—and got nailed for in a subsequent grand jury report—wa s that it offered Mulhall a settlement agreement of $126,000. The circumstances surrounding the settlement remain a mystery, but it’s a good thing McKinney had the wherewithal to fire Tracey to help balance the budget so Atascadero could shell out $126,000 for unknown reasons.

Setting aside all that business about Atascadero’s use of FEMA funds—I really don’t feel like going into the details of yet another grand jury report—my favorite McKinney shenanigan has got to be his defense of the fact that Atascadero city employees had racked up more than 8,000 vacation hours in violation of city code. McKinney defended the lapse by arguing that the code hadn’t been enforced in years. Of course, his position may have had something to do with the fact that McKinney was one of the worst offenders. Between McKinney and assistant to the city manager Marcia McClure-Torgeson, the two had racked up more than 1,600 hours of vacation time over the city’s legal limit.

In retrospect, it was probably a good idea for McKinney to bank a supply of vacation time since he’s going to be working pretty hard essentially managing a giant resort. Of course, with a piddly $195,000 salary, not to mention the pension from his $157,173 salary from Atascadero, the poor guy’s going to have a hard time financing the kind of vacation he really deserves. Maybe, as a parting gesture of goodwill, McKinney could take over The Carlton to help get the cash flowing through the Heart of the Central Coast. After all, the city needs a new Sugar Daddy now that Weyrich’s blown through his $200 million, and McKinney’s probably going to spend the next five years rubbing elbows with some bored, rich golfers complaining about liberal efforts to raise the minimum wage.

If McKinney is concerned about the challenge of playing Daddy Warbucks from afar, he can ease his mind with the reminder that Weyrich has been managing The Carlton from the chakra of Southern California—Ojai—and that’s been going gosh-darn great. Of course, we might want to give McKinney some time to adjust to the demands of his new job before we start asking for favors. I hear Indian Wells is tragically Walmart-less, so McKinney’s probably going to want to jump on that as soon as he arrives. You can’t have your caddy shopping for discount baby formula in the same place you’re buying Dom Perignon for your bath.

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