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By Shawn Raymundo

Erik Sund, who previously served as assistant city manager and most recently acting city manager, was officially promoted to the chief executive position by the city council on Tuesday, May 4.

The council’s vote, a 3-1 decision with Councilmember Laura Ferguson dissenting and Councilmember Steven Knoblock absent, concludes a roughly 15-month search to replace James Makshanoff, Sund’s former boss, who left as head of the city in January 2020.

“I’m honored and humbled to be voted as your city manager … I wanted to do the right thing for what’s best for the city of San Clemente, and I can say proudly that all of my actions have reflected that,” Sund said. “Sometimes making the right decision is difficult, doesn’t make everyone happy, but at the end of the day, it’s all about what’s best for San Clemente.”

Sund, who was first hired as the assistant city manager in late 2013, will now direct the city under a three-year contract with a base salary just shy of $250,000, according to the city. He had taken on the position of city manager in an acting capacity last June while the council delayed its search for Makshanoff’s permanent replacement until this past winter.

“I think very highly of you and the work that you’ve done in the last” 7½ years, Mayor Kathy Ward said in a full-throated endorsement of Sund. She added, “I am proud that tonight we are hiring a very strong choice.”

Dan Bane, the city’s former mayor who resigned from the council a year ago last month, had contracted Bob Murray & Associates to lead the recruitment efforts. In the interim, the council at the time appointed Robert Dunek as the acting city manager, with Sund continuing as his deputy.

However, a divided council, resulting from Bane’s departure, coupled with the impacts of the pandemic, created setbacks in the city manager search, which exceeded the term limit of Dunek’s six-month contract.

Amid the global pandemic, Dunek had a rocky tenure, as he was faced with making unpopular decisions—some of which would later cost him a contract extension. The council, in a 2-0-2 vote last June, let Dunek go by rejecting an extension to his contract, and installed Sund to take his place as interim city manager.

Around the same time, Ferguson—who had been the acting mayor—publicized the council’s inability to move forward with interviewing candidates for the city manager job because of another impasse between the elected officials.

Discussions on the recruitment process didn’t resume in earnest until this past December, after newly elected councilmembers were sworn in, filling every seat on the dais. Since then, the council had met numerous times in special closed sessions to negotiate with applicants.

Ferguson on Tuesday had raised issue with the recruitment process, stating that it was highjacked from her when the council was deadlocked on interviewing candidates. She accused the council of wanting to keep Sund in charge of the city.

“In my opinion, the reason we didn’t hire another city manager is you didn’t want to hire another city manager,” Ferguson said, before noting the numerous special meetings the council conducted since January. “I feel like my time was wasted.”

According to Ferguson, the city received more than 100 applicants, about eight of whom were interviewed for the job.

Ferguson, who has publicly clashed with Sund over transparency concerns, said the council’s decision to promote him was a show of enabling perceived transgressions in the workplace rather than holding him accountable.

“In my opinion, again, I don’t believe Mr. Sund’s decisions have been responsible,” she added, referring to the city’s actions near the start of the pandemic. “I believe he shot from the hip in making some of these decisions that caused embarrassment to our town and to council. I also believe he doesn’t share things equally … I believe that we need to be informed; he doesn’t communicate.”

The rest of the council, however, argued against those claims, Ward in particular excoriating Ferguson for suggesting the council had done anything untoward during the recruitment.

“Any accusation towards any of these councilmembers that anything was done inappropriately or wrong in this recruitment is just unfounded, and I’m just stunned that a councilmember would stoop so low at this time to do that and accuse this council of that,” Ward said.

Councilmember Chris Duncan showered Sund with further praise, stating that he’s “always come through” and has “always been truthful.”

“You’ve never let me down,” Duncan said. “It’s a tough job, you know it, you’ve shown yourself with composure when there have been criticisms. There are things you could do better, you know that, but I congratulate you as well … looking forward to a bright future in moving together.”

The city council on Tuesday, May 4, voted, 3-1, to appoint Erik Sund to the official role of city manager. Photo: Shawn Raymundo

Below is the initial report on Sund’s appointment published Friday, April 30.


After months of negotiating with applicants interested in the city of San Clemente’s chief executive position, councilmembers next week are slated to promote Erik Sund from his role as acting city manager to the official head of the city.

In a special closed session Thursday, April 29, the council voted to offer Sund the job under a three-year contract with a base salary just shy of $250,000, according to the city, which released the draft agreement on Friday afternoon, April 30.

“Erik Sund has proven himself to be quite capable handling all issues in our city, including those that are currently very important, such as the toll road and supporting our business community and residents while leading our city through the pandemic,” Mayor Kathy Ward said in a prepared statement.

Next week’s anticipated vote to approve the contract, which is unlikely to be by unanimous consent, would conclude a roughly 15-month recruitment that followed then-City Manager James Makshanoff’s announced departure in December 2019.

Sund, who took on the position of city manager in an acting capacity last June while the council delayed its search for Makshanoff’s permanent replacement until this past winter, was first hired as the assistant city manager in late 2013.

“We have decided Mr. Sund knows our city and the issues we are facing, and  he is the best candidate to lead our city going forward,” Ward added in her statement.

Erik Sund, pictured here on behalf of the city accepting a check from PierPride President Eileen Kawas in August 2020, is slated to be named the city of San Clemente’s next city manager on Tuesday, May 4. Photo: Shawn Raymundo

Dan Bane, the city’s former mayor who resigned from the council a year ago this month, had contracted Bob Murray & Associates to lead the recruitment efforts. In the interim, the council at the time appointed Robert Dunek as the acting city manager with Sund continuing as his deputy.

However, a divided council, resulting from Bane’s departure, coupled with the impacts of the pandemic created setbacks in the city manager search, which exceeded the term limit of Dunek’s six-month contract.

Amid the global pandemic, Dunek had a rocky tenure as he was faced with making unpopular decisions—some of which would later cost him a contract extension. The council, in a 2-0-2 vote last June, let Dunek go by rejecting an extension to his contract, and installed Sund to take his place as interim city manager.

Around the same time, Councilmember Laura Ferguson—who had been the acting mayor—publicized the council’s inability to move forward with interviewing candidates for the city manager job because of another impasse between the elected officials.

Discussions on the recruitment process didn’t resume in earnest until this past December, after newly elected councilmembers were sworn in, filling out every seat on the dais. Since then, the council had met numerous times in special closed sessions to negotiate with applicants.

When the council meets on Tuesday, May 4, it’s unlikely that all five councilmembers will vote in Sund’s favor. Ferguson, in particular, has clashed with Sund publicly including during a July 2020 meeting when she acknowledged there had been “bad blood” between the two stemming from her time as the city’s public information officer.

On Friday, Ferguson emphasized that it’s her responsibility as an elected official to “always place the best interest of the community and city organizations first and I will not settle for less.”

Asked how she intends to vote next week, Ferguson noted that while her thoughts on Sund’s work as a city official have been on display, she intends to remain open to the public’s comments during the upcoming meeting.

“I think it’s pretty obvious that I have not been particularly pleased with the performance of this individual,” she said. “However, I will listen to all the public comments and I expect there will be some for this item.”

As of this posting, Sund was not immediately available to respond to a request seeking comment.

The public session of the council’s May 4 meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to include comments from Mayor Kathy Ward and correct a quote from Councilmember Laura Ferguson. An additional update was made to provide further context regarding Robert Dunek’s contraction extension.

SR_1Shawn Raymundo
Shawn Raymundo is the city editor for the San Clemente Times. He graduated from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in Global Studies. Before joining Picket Fence Media, he worked as the government accountability reporter for the Pacific Daily News in the U.S. territory of Guam. Follow him on Twitter @ShawnzyTsunami and follow San Clemente Times @SCTimesNews.

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