Tuesday, January 11, 2011
CASCADE LOCKS - Bernard Seeger will be working from home, on assigned projects only, for his final three weeks as city administrator.
The City Council voted 6-1 Tuesday night to place Seeger on administrative leave for the rest of his term of employment.
That day is Jan. 31, subject to a separation agreement approved last month by the previous city council - an agreement viewed with displeasure by most of the current council, who took office Jan. 2.
"It's their option." Seeger said. "As a board they get to set the terms on how I work for them."
The council met Tuesday in an executive session, (closed to the public) continued from Monday, to discuss their options over the separation agreement.
Seeger had requested the agreement in early December, citing lack of trust by members of the council and the new mayor, George Fischer.
"This situation started with the past council," Fischer said Tuesday when the council returned to open session. "After talking with our legal consultant, we now know that we have to stay with the agreement." (The meeting had been continued at the suggestion of city attorney Andrew Jordan.) The agreement granted Seeger three months' severance pay, totaling $18,000.
Tiffany Pruit, council president, said "This has been thoroughly researched."
"We were not able to get out of the separation agreement," Pruit said.
Fischer and other members of the council argued that the agreement passed in December was premature and had hoped to change or nullify it. Former Mayor Brad Lorang and two of the councilors who voted for it - Randy Holmstrom and Kerry Jo Osbourn - were in their final meeting before leaving office. Councilor Lance Masters voted for the agreement, and his was the sole vote Tuesday against Seeger being placed on administrative leave.
The terms of that leave, carefully crafted during executive session, were set out in a motion by Councilor Kevin Benson in open session:
"I move to place Bernard Seeger on administrative leave. He is to take no action or make no contacts on behalf of the city without prior specific approval of the mayor or council president." Councilor Don Haight seconded the motion.
Said Fischer, "We feel it is in the best interest of the community of Cascade Locks to do this so we keep the integrity of Cascade Locks."
Fischer said he will soon contact members of council to discuss a process for hiring an interim administrator.
Masters expressed confidence that Seeger would continue to work as hard for the city as he has always done, and Councilor Eva Zerfing told Seeger, "Thank you for your service."
Seeger said Thursday, "I'm relieved, by the fact that they are not (contesting the agreement)."
"I was certainly willing to work, per the (separation) agreement of 2010, but they made the decision and there is not much I can say other than I have to honor that.
"I'm not upset, because I thought they were going to fight the (separation agreement) decision," Seeger said. "I didn't want to get into a legal battle with the city, a place I love and have worked hard to make strong."
Otherwise, "I was going to have to make a tough decision, and I don't know what I would have decided.
"I look at the organization as a whole, not who voted what way, and I understand there are members of the council who do not want me to work for the city any more, but that's been that way for three-and-a-half years. I can put my feelings aside, and serve the broader interests of this community.
"I leave the city on good terms and I hope they're not upset. I don't like to leave on bad terms," Seeger said. He said he will look for work elsewhere but plans to keep the home he owns, and to retire in Cascade Locks.