Red Bank Commissioners are still stymied on issues affecting City Manager Tim Thornbury after still another special called meeting on Tuesday night.
Mayor Hollie Berry and Vice Mayor Stefanie Dalton maintain that a vote on April 26 on a contract to retain Mr. Thornbury on an on-call basis was not legal. They asserted that after City Attorney Arnold Stulce recused himself from matters dealing with the city manager, attorney Harry Cash, the replacement chosen by City Attorney Stulce to oversee matters concerning Mr.
Thornbury, was not valid. This led to a special meeting last Thursday for the council to vote on a temporary city attorney. Commissioners Ruth Jeno, Pete Phillips and Ed Lecompte felt that the resolution to use attorney John Harrison was written in a way as to give the other commissioners no choice. This led to a special meeting on Monday night where the commissioners were given two attorneys to select from and Mark Litchford - the East Ridge city attorney - was picked to represent Red Bank in matters relating to the city manager.
The special meeting on Tuesday night to vote again on Mr. Thornbury’s contract yielded no decision because attorney Sam Elliott, who is representing the city manager, told the commissioners that the agreement can only be modified at a regular meeting.
Attorney Litchford has prepared on behalf of the city an amended agreement for Mr. Thornbury, but commissioners received it just before the meeting and most felt they needed more time to read and understand it. The decision was postponed until the next commission meeting that is set for next Tuesday.
Also on the agenda on Tuesday was to hear a presentation of the MTAS recruitment and hiring process for a new city manager and the selection, appointment and compensation for an interim city manager. City Attorney Stulce recommended not taking a vote on these issues because it would be a moot point until the main issue is settled.
Citizens that took the opportunity to address the commissioners were on both sides of the issues. The first speaker felt like paying about $10,000 per month for close to a year was too much for a contractor’s job when it is unknown just how much time Mr. Thornbury will actually be needed and she said is unfair to the taxpayers.
There is a misconception, that Mr. Thornbury is only the city manager, said Commissioner Jeno. She said that Mr. Thornbury has been doing three jobs. In addition to the city manager position, he also is the building inspector and Public Works director. He plans to step down only from the city manager’s job this year and will continue functioning in the other two roles to fulfill his contract. If he does the jobs right, he has enough work with the other two positions, to be working almost full time, said Commissioner Jeno. He has saved the city $140,000 each year for the past two years by performing these two jobs while only being paid as the city manager, she said. Additionally, Red Bank is currently in the middle of paving, ADA and signalization projects that are all grant based and which Mr. Thornbury has been managing.
Another speaker asked if the city has a written personnel policy for separations, and suggested using it.
Don McKenzie said he was confused about the situation as to if Mr. Thornbury is retiring or not. He said it sounds that on-call, as-needed, may not be the case. He asked to see the alternate proposal before the next meeting. Attorney Litchford replied that is within the attorney-client privilege and recommended the council wait for discussion at the actual public meeting. Commissioner Pete Phillips said it is the duty of the commissioners to hire and fire without asking the public. He said that he is not willing to share this information until it is cleared by all attorneys involved.
Carol Rose, a former commissioner spoke saying that the way this is being handled does not speak well for the city. She said that she had worked with Mr. Thornbury and was impressed with his knowledge, his willingness to work and responsiveness to every citizen’s needs. When he took the city manager job, she said, he made the suggestion of continuing in the public works role because so much of that work is funded by grants. She said it worked well and he got the job done. He also continued as building inspector and nothing ever slowed down. The city needs someone in the public works and building inspector positions and she said that the salary for those two jobs is more than what he is asking for. He will also be available to give advice to the interim city manager. She said, "It is well worth what he is asking in salary and benefits, I don’t think it’s 'free money'. "
Also, Ms. Rose added, that as one of the commissioners she had understood that it was one person/one vote, and that no two or three people, no matter their position, has more weight in the decision making. The comment resulted in applause from a large group of people present in the audience.
A decision regarding the city manager’s proposed contract is scheduled for the regular commission meeting that will be held next Tuesday.