The Isla Vista Community Services District (CSD) announced Jonathan Abboud as its first interim general manager on Tuesday night, creating a temporary position to account for its unexpectedly small budget.
Abboud said his first order of business is to have a meeting with board members to discuss their goals. He said he chose to apply because he believes in I.V. self-governance and hopes to bring his experience in advocacy, lobbying, fundraising and “navigating bureaucracies” to the district.
“I want to be general manager to make sure that the CSD is successful in its first year in establishing itself, establishing its role in the community, making relationships built in the community and having a good reputation as a voice for change and good change in I.V. and I feel like I am well-suited to do that,” he said in a phone interview with the Nexus Tuesday night.
Abboud, a 2014 UC Santa Barbara alumnus, also plans to strengthen the district’s finances and find an independent revenue stream.
He was a primary organizer for Isla Vista self-governance and directed the Yes on E & F campaign for board elections in the CSD.
The CSD will pay Abboud $4,000 from its professional development fund and may pay more based on his success in acquiring grants, according to a press release.
Board member Spencer Brandt said the CSD plans to hire a full-time general manager when the district receives additional funding.
In February 2016, the Isla Vista Self Governance Initiative estimated the general manager salary would be $162,500. In March, before a tax to fund the CSD failed, First District Supervisor Das Williams estimated the salary for a General Manager position would cost $100,000 annually.
“The I.V. CSD has acquired a general manager at 6 percent of cost estimated in the 2015 Isla Vista Governance Options Financial Analysis Study,” Brandt said. “We are proving that we can do a lot with a little.”
At a press conference Wednesday afternoon at People’s Park, Bertrand said the general manager’s role will be to execute the board’s policies, but ultimately it is the board’s duty to create policies, develop procedures and oversee finances.
Bertrand added that the CSD is drafting a contract for the general manager’s role. The CSD’s lawyer, G. Ross Trindle, said the contract will become public when the details have been negotiated and finalized.
The CSD hired Abboud through his consulting company which he created Sept. 17, two weeks after the application deadline for the position, according to California state records. He is the only employee of the firm and said he created the company so he could accept the position as general manager.
According to Trindle, the district’s revenue stream would be unable to support salaries and benefits for a public employee. And, because it can’t sustain a payroll system, the CSD hired its general manager through a firm.
“Having an Interim General Manager on a contract basis via a consultant allows the District to receive the general manager services it needs to function more efficiently to deliver much-needed services to District residents,” Trindle said in an email.
In a Tuesday press release, I.V. CSD President Ethan Bertrand praised Abboud’s service to I.V. and called it “an honor” to have him as general manager.
Bertrand told the Nexus Wednesday that there were only two applicants to the position, Abboud Consulting, LLC and Lechowicz & Tseng Municipal Consultants, LLC – an Oakland consulting firm formed in March, according to state records.
Lechowicz & Tseng requested “significantly more” pay than what Abboud requested, Bertrand said, though that fact did not impact the decision since, ultimately, the group removed themselves from the applicant pool.
The government consulting firm removed itself from the pool after the beginning of the application review process. Bertrand said the group was more focused on finances and strategic planning than the “general management” of the district.
Abboud said his firm has no clients but has previously worked in acquiring grants and helped the CSD apply for a $20,000 grant with the James S. Bower Foundation.
Abboud is currently on the board of directors for the Isla Vista Community Development Corporation, an I.V. nonprofit that coordinates funding for the CSD.
When asked whether this influenced the decision to hire Abboud, Bertrand said he is not legally allowed to speak on the deliberations for a general manager.
Bertrand also said the CSD plans to release over 100 pages of documents from the application and review process.
Abboud said the main focus he has for the CSD is to envision its future and lay down a plan for what is to come.
At Wednesday’s conference, he said his plan was never to stay in I.V. after completing his undergraduate degree, but instead to “do something more traditional.” However, the creation of the CSD drove him to remain in I.V. in order to make it a better place.
“That’s been the most proud work of my life that I’ve worked on, and it’s such a joy to now be able to have worked on creating this district and now to be able to work on executing the district’s vision,” Abboud said.
Updated Oct. 12, 12:30 a.m.