OPINION: Mayor Clarifies Council Process on Manager’s Contract

by Mayor John Hollar, Montpelier

There appears to be a great deal of misunderstanding about the Montpelier City Council’s deliberations regarding the city manager’s employment contract. I have been reluctant to comment in detail, since issues related to the manager’s performance are fundamentally a personnel matter. The role of the City Council is to set policy direction, hire and oversee the city manager. Out of respect for the manager and good public policy, I believe the details are not appropriate for public discussion. But the widespread misinformation has undermined confidence in the council, and I believe it is important for readers to have more information.

Since November 2015, the city council has held 17 meetings to discuss the city manager’s contract, all of them publicly warned. Those meetings followed a job evaluation in February 2015 that revealed significant concerns about the manager’s performance. In January 2016, due to ongoing performance concerns, at least five councilors supported the non-renewal of the manager’s contract.

A majority of the council continued to have concerns about the manager’s performance throughout 2016. It was clear last fall that this majority continued to support the termination of his contract. In a meeting with the city manager in October, two days before a council meeting to discuss his job performance, I informed him of this. That was clearly a mistake, as I have acknowledged; I should have waited until the entire council met to discuss this issue again.

The notion, however, that there was some sort of “cabal,” as the Times-Argus has repeatedly stated, is baseless. Three city council members have been clear about their desire for a new city manager beginning in December 2015, and their concerns about the manager’s performance — which I share — have been discussed in dozens of hours of council meetings and with the manager since that time.

The city council recently completed another evaluation of the city manager’s job performance. That evaluation revealed deep and ongoing concerns, and three council members have continued to support the termination of the manager’s contract.

I committed to extending the contract in December after hearing strong public support, and no public opposition, for a renewal at several public hearings. The most recent evaluation and the continued opposition to a renewal by three council members complicated this process. Nonetheless, the council has offered the city manager a new contract, and I anticipate that an agreement will be approved before Town Meeting Day.

I am eager to move forward, and the city manager, city council and Montpelier residents likely agree. But I believe it is important for residents to have a more complete picture of the council’s process. With this issue behind us, I am hopeful that the newly-elected council and manager can begin focusing on the many other pressing issues and opportunities facing the city.

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