By William Macfadyen

Publisher of

The three-ring circus otherwise known as the Solvang City Council has claimed its latest victim: City manager David Gassaway, who resigned at the Sept. 9 council meeting — at the request of the council.

That would be the same City Council that hired him on a unanimous vote earlier this year.

Gassaway had been on the job all of five months so, clearly, he must have been an awful choice, right?


According to a statement from Mayor Ryan Toussaint, “Gassaway brings a lot of talent to the table with his knowledge and work ethic,” and the parting had nothing to do with his performance.

“The City Council has a different direction for the community, and we mutually agreed that a separation would allow the City Council to achieve its desired outcomes,” he explained.

For those of you having trouble understanding just what those “desired outcomes” are, you’re not alone. The clowns running this show aren’t even sure what they’re doing.

Noozhawk’s Janene Scully and our friends at the Santa Ynez Valley Star had to point out to then-interim city attorney Chip Wullbrandt that the council was required to disclose who had asked for Gassaway’s resignation. Turns out it was Toussaint and Councilmen Chris Djernaes and Daniel Johnson.

Then Wullbrandt himself had to note that the council actually needed someone to at least act as the city manager. The council quickly added an emergency item to an already ridiculously long agenda, and agreed to a series of if/then statements that essentially would hand the job to the last man — or woman — standing.

Four days later it turned out to be administrative services director Xenia Bradford, who had been a candidate for city manager at the time Gassaway was chosen, and who got her shot after the council’s second first choice, public works director Matt van der Linden, passed. Probably a wise decision, that.

The council was really getting into the personnel game at its meeting. It voted to hire Wullbrandt as its contract attorney at an eye-popping rate of $335 an hour and handed a contract extension to new public information officer Kady Fleckenstein, who will now collect some $65,000 over the next four months.

As city attorney, Wullbrandt — a partner in the venerable Santa Barbara law firm of Price, Postel & Parma LLP— will be paid far more than the other applicants for the job had proposed, and more than $100 an hour more than the city attorneys in Buellton, Guadalupe and Lompoc.

What’s more, in July, he billed Solvang an astonishing $74,837, which is an interesting math problem, and not just because it’s more than half the $135,500 the city had budgeted for the entire year. Bear with me here.

July had a total of 23 business days, not counting the Fourth of July, which was a Thursday. Let’s assume Wullbrandt took off for the Independence Day holiday, but worked eight hours the next day and the other 21 weekdays of the month.

I’m a journalist and not a lawyer so you should check my arithmetic, but I believe that works out to 176 hours of dedicated service to Solvang, which means an even higher rate of $420.45 an hour. Man, I’m in the wrong business. We all are.

Evidently that’s cool with the aforementioned Djernaes and Johnson, who recommended Wullbrandt for the permanent position.

“Over the last three months, I think that Chip has done an amazing job, working beyond the call of duty,” said Djernaes, who seems to fancy himself a budget hawk of some kind.

“… He worked far more hours than anybody would expect him to do under a reasonable circumstance, and he had to because, unfortunately, the city was put in a very difficult situation.”

And there he goes again. When Djernaes is not tossing out ethnic slurs, the loquacious freshman councilman seems to have a penchant for casting aspersions and insinuations around the community. It’ll be interesting to see if what goes around, comes around.


William Macfadyen is the publisher of,and the thoughts and opinions are his own. He can be reached at