“I don’t know what happened,” former Patterson Chief Building Official Jim Swanson said Tuesday, Sept. 10 by phone. “I was never told why. I was told they did away with the job.”
City Manager Rod Butler agreed with Swanson’s assessment that the position had been eliminated and the city was trying out using an outside firm from Sacramento to conduct building inspections. He declined to comment specifically on what led to Swanson’s exit from the City of Patterson, calling it a personnel matter, which is confidential.
He said it moves the city away from “constantly hiring and laying people off.”
“In boom and bust cycles, it is easier to work with a contract firm,” Butler said, noting the city would be using Bureau Veritas of Sacramento, who has done some inspection and plan check work for the city already. In good economic times the firm can be used more and in economic downturns there is no need for layoffs, just less work for the contractor.
The move comes on the heels of a controversy over a lack of inspections made on a building purchased last year near city hall to be converted into a city hall annex. The building, which was purchased for more than $600,000 from city property investor John Ramos, was deemed structurally deficient by two engineering firms contracted by the city to check the building’s structural integrity after the building was purchased.
Former City Councilwoman Annette Smith said they asked for structural inspections prior to the purchase of the building, which closed in August of 2012, only to find out later they didn’t happen.
Councilman Larry Buehner pointed his finger at the building department and Swanson, who left the city Sept. 3. He later backed off original statements, saying the City Council didn’t ask for specific types of inspections to be done on the building prior to its purchase, but “I wish I would have.”
City Manager Rod Butler said at a city council meeting on July 2 that he had not directed Swanson to do more than a check for compliance with the American’s with Disabilities Act.
“That was my failing,” he said at the meeting. Later he called requests for structural inspections uncommon in city building purchases.
Swanson, considered an expert by the state in disability access issues, has also been at the forefront of a transition that is happening statewide with respect to the new Americans with Disabilities Act of 2010 that began being enforced in April of 2012.
• Contact Nick Rappley at 892-6187, ext. 31 or firstname.lastname@example.org