Presidio City Administrator Brad Newton fired at city council meeting 

PRESIDIO — In an emotional conclusion to a nearly four-hour meeting, Presidio City Council voted unanimously Monday night to terminate Brad Newton as city administrator. The decision came after weeks of lengthy discussion behind closed doors. 

Mayor John Ferguson addressed Newton through tears in his mayor’s report. “I want to thank you for your service to the city of Presidio from the bottom of my heart,” he said. “All of us — in our jobs and in our lives — make mistakes.” 

Because the city administrator’s contract was discussed in executive session where council adjourns into a separate room to address sensitive issues in private, a reason for Newton’s termination was not provided to the public. City officials declined to comment on the matter, and Newton himself did not return a request for comment by press time. 

Ferguson made it clear that he was opposed to Newton’s termination. “I feel you have done the best job of any city administrator I’ve worked with since 2013,” he said. “Over the past year, you’ve led Presidio out of some of our darkest times. You were the skipper of the boat.” 

Newton’s most recent turn as city administrator started in February 2021, when former City Administrator Joe Portillo stepped down, adding fuel to controversy over the city’s troubled financial past. City council appointed Newton, who had been serving at the time as executive director of the Presidio Municipal Development District, to serve as the interim administrator, and formally hired him from a pool of three candidates last fall. 

In a press release, Ferguson detailed some of Newton’s achievements in his time working for the city. “Newton had worked in different positions for the City of Presidio over the past 10+ years as economic development director, executive director of the Presidio Municipal Development District, and city administrator on two separate occasions,” Ferguson wrote. “He played important roles in several major infrastructure projects for Presidio, including the wastewater treatment plant, natural gas service to the industrial park, sanitary landfill profitability, expansion of the international bridge, and most recently, overseeing the return of timely annual financial audits for the city in 2021, after an eight-year lapse.”

At the end of Monday’s meeting, Council also moved to eliminate the position of chief financial officer, currently held by Malynda Richardson, and add the position of financial specialist to the city’s roster. The new position has many of the same responsibilities of the CFO, but shifts its scope from a supervisory to a non-supervisory role. 

Newton had transferred Richardson from her previous role as EMS director on February 1; while the city’s finances were in crisis mode, Richardson held both positions. For a brief moment on Monday night, she worried she had lost both. “Am I being terminated, or should I show up for work in the morning?” she asked the council. 

City Secretary Brenda Lee Ornelas-Acuña was swift to answer. “You are the new finance specialist,” she said.