MOUNT CARMEL — Some Mount Carmel aldermen are hoping that the six month severance package approved last week for city manager Mike Housewright will bring an end to the regular attempts by other board members to fire him.
The severance package was approved by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen at its Feb. 25 meeting by a vote of 5-2, with the two no votes cast by two aldermen who have previously attempted to remove Housewright.
The severance agreement was proposed last month by Alderman John Gibson in response to a motion by Aldermen Jim Gilliam to eliminate the city manager position.
It gives Housewright six months pay in one lump sum if his position is eliminated or if he is fired without cause by the BMA.
No votes were cast by Gilliam, who made a motion to table the agreement and discuss it at the next workshop, and Alderman Steven McLain, who said he believes the board should be allowed to give input on the agreement.
The motion to table was defeated 2-5, after which Gibson told the board that the agreement was drafted by City Attorney John Pevy using examples provided by the University of Tennessee’s Municipal Technical Advisory Service (MTAS).
“This is an industry standard,” Gibson said. “There are plenty of examples of city managers within the state of Tennessee that have a severance agreement. It’s something that protects the employee. It’s something that gives other employees a kind of a security net.”
Gibson said the agreement is also a tool to separate politics and the workforce.
“Anybody who can be fired by this board, they should have a severance agreement,” Gibson said. “If they can be fired by the board right now they should have some type of protection from politics, and currently that’s only Mr. Housewright.”
McLain: “Anybody (employed by) the city can be fired by the board”
Gibson: “Not anymore.”
McLain: “If you fire the city manager, then you can fire anybody in town.”
Gibson: “Exactly. It’s a barrier between the two. It keeps politics out of the workforce.”
Gibson said the severance agreement is a good recruiting tool as well, should Housewright decide to leave. Housewright should have been offered the severance agreement when he was hired, which would have prevented past attempts to remove him, Gibson added.
Gibson added, “If you look at the way we’ve treated our city manager for the past three years, I think we would be remiss to think we’re going to have an easy time replacing him because who would want to come with no security, and to know that they can be brought out in the public once a month, as many times as (board members) wanted to, and have to fight for their lives. It’s not something that is a bonus or anything like that. This is a piece of security that lends notice that we won’t just fire him for arbitrary political reasons.”
McLain said he feels all city employees should have a severance agreement, and Gilliam made a motion to that effect, but Gilliam’s motion wasn’t addressed due to the original motion still being on the floor.
Mayor Pat Stilwell said the citizens of Mount Carmel want to keep the city manager.
“He holds this town together right now,” she said. “This will stop the harassment that he’s had.”