Three weeks of mystery surrounding the sudden suspension of Williston’s city manager came to a conclusion Tuesday when the city council voted to terminate the contract of Pat Miller.
Miller, who was hired in July 2011, was put on administrative leave with pay May 24. That suspension was renewed May 31, at which time council members, on the advice of their attorney, elected to not comment on why Miller was sent home. The matter was constantly referred to as “the issue.”
At the May 31 meeting, Fred Koberlein, the city’s counsel, said an investigation would begin the next day and was expected to conclude in a few days.
At the council meeting June 5, council members learned the investigation was complete and would be available within the week.
On June 8, the council met again to extend the suspension, pending the investigation.
In an emergency meeting Tuesday afternoon, council members learned that not all of them had been given a copy of the 212-page investigative report and while scurrying went on to provide copies to all, the meeting was recessed for about 45 minutes.
When President Jerry Robinson reconvened the meeting, discussions immediately went to Miller’s contract, which would automatically renew July 14 if council did not take any opposing action.
“I have lost confidence in our city manager,” said Councilor Charles Goodwin, adding he would be opposed to renewing Miller’s contract.
For the next hour, the council weighed its options and each member chose words carefully.
Never was the reason behind the suspension discussed, and when a member of the audience asked if the report was now a public record, Robinson said no. (Editor’s note: The Williston Pioneer believes the report findings to be public record and made a formal request Tuesday evening for all documents related to the investigation to be released.)
Koberlein advised his clients if they chose to terminate because of misconduct, a hearing where Miller could get his due process would be in order.
After more discussion, Councilor Norm Fugate made a motion to close the investigation. The motion passed 4-1, with Councilor Jason Cason dissenting.
Fugate then made a motion to terminate Miller’s contract effective immediately and that Miller be paid severance according to the terms of his contract, which includes 30 days written notice.
What that equated to was his salary up to July 21, 60 percent of his salary for 60 days, and his unpaid vacation and sick time.
Fugate also asked if Miller accept the termination immediately (he would get his money immediately rather than wait until July 21), that he be asked to sign a waiver that he would seek no other claims from the city.
The motion passed unanimously.
At the regular meeting Tuesday night, the council agreed it needed an interim city manager until the position can be advertised and filled.
Almost immediately the name of Dr. Oel Wingo came up.
Wingo served as Williston’s interim city manager last year, prior to Miller’s hire.
Robinson said he had already spoken with her and she was available on a consulting basis for a fee of $5,000 a month.
Council voted to allow Robinson to enter into negotiations with Wingo. The president said she had indicated she could begin as early as next week.