Newport City Manager Jim Voetberg was prepared to resign his post effective March 18th and said as much to the City Council that day. In documents released by the city by request of the local news media under the Freedom of Information Act, Voetberg wrote his resignation letter citing his impression that four out of the seven city councilors were prepared to fire him. He wrote that he accepted a majority of the council’s desire for new management and that he acknowledges that his time with the city is over.
However, as News Lincoln County readers learned on March 18th, Voetberg emerged from an Executive Session with his job – not only intact but with an added commitment by the city council to work more closely with him as to how they want him to do his job, with specific goals and objectives for him to fulfill. And that those goals and objectives would be formulated by a subcommittee of the council and ratified by the full council.
According to Voetberg’s time line that was released to the news media, the chain of events began mid-afternoon on Friday, March 8th, when he said Councilor Dick Beemer came into his office and announced that he (Beemer) and Councilor Dean Sawyer had the votes to fire him at the March 18th City Council meeting. (Sawyer denies any such involvement.) Voetberg said he asked why, and said Beemer claimed that he (Voetberg) had thrown somebody “under the bus.” Voetberg asked who was thrown under the bus, and what was the issue? Voetberg indicates in his time line that Beemer said he didn’t want to talk about it – that it would come out during Monday’s meeting.
Voetberg says he checked with City Clerk Recorder Peggy Hawker to see if she knew anything about his firing. Voetberg said Hawker denied any knowledge of what was going on.
Voetberg said he called Mayor Sandra Roumagoux and told her what Beemer had said and asked her if she knew anything about it. Voetberg said Roumagoux said she would check into it and get back to him.
Voetberg then left on a trip to Norfolk, VA to help celebrate his daughter’s 24th birthday and her accomplishments in the U.S. Navy.
Voetberg said Mayor Roumagoux called him on Monday, the 11th, and confirmed that Beemer had enough votes to fire him on Monday the 18th. Voetberg said she suggested he begin thinking about a separation agreement, adding that Beemer had his mind set and he has the votes. Voetberg suggested she ask Beemer to allow him to stay on long enough to help the city formulate next year’s budget since budget committee meetings were about to begin.
On Tuesday, the 12th, Voetberg said he enjoyed his daughter’s birthday and throughout the day had his cell phone turned off. Voetberg says Clerk Recorder Hawker sent a copy of a draft separation agreement to him. He said he reviewed the separation agreement on the 13th.
On Wednesday, the 13th, Voetberg said he learned from Mayor Roumagoux that Councilor Beemer was not interested in extending his employment to help with formulating the budget for the upcoming fiscal year, mentioning again that Beemer has the votes to fire him and that the decision will be made on Monday, the 18th.
On Thursday, the 14th, Voetberg returned home and while enroute talked with City Attorney Christy Monson about his separation agreement. He also learned that Police Chief Mark Miranda was expected to be the interim city manager until a permanent replacement could be hired.
On Friday, the 15th, Voetberg said he talked to most of his department heads and all said they knew nothing of him being fired.
On Saturday, the 16th, Voetberg said he had provided his input to Monson on the exact wording of the separation agreement. Voetberg said he again talked with Mayor Roumagoux about who he supposedly “threw under the bus” and for what reason. Roumagoux said Beemer did not have anything specific about what he (Voetberg) had done nor who he might have “thrown under the bus.” Only that it had something to do with a past issue.
On Sunday, March 17th, Voetberg said he and City Attorney Christy Monson put the finishing touches on the separation agreement.
Again, Monday afternoon, after a lengthy Executive Session with the city council, City Manager Jim Voetberg emerged still the city manager with an added commitment from the council to pursue a closer working relationship with him. They agreed that a subcommittee of city councilors would begin drawing up goals and procedures for Voetberg to improve his performance as city manager. One of the goals is to develop what was called a “more effective job evaluation form” that councilors will fill out when evaluating Voetberg. Past job evaluations of Voetberg over the past two years have been lackluster at best with some pointed comments and criticisms of Voetberg’s performance. High ratings came largely from Mayor Mark McConnell and Councilors Roumagoux and Brusselback. Councilors over the past two to three years have also expressed disappointment over how the city has handled personnel actions that some complained looked like “pay offs” for not criticizing the city as well as two lawsuits that were settled largely in favor of former employees who claimed mistreatment by Voetberg.
Only a few councilors could be reached today but they did offer a few comments. Mayor Sandra Roumagoux said she anticipates working more closely with Mr. Voetberg in the future and also looks forward to using enhanced evaluation forms to indicate her report card on Mr. Voetberg’s performance as city manager. Councilor David Allen said he also looks forward to using improved evaluation forms in gauging Mr. Voetberg’s performance as city manager and setting goals and objectives for Voetberg and for the city. Councilor Ralph Busby said sharper evaluation tools must be developed to evaluate how the city’s financial, personnel and physical assets can be best put to use to move the city forward, and of the strategies Mr. Voetberg uses to make that happen. Busby indicated that, in his opinion, Mr. Voetberg’s status with the city is tenuous, not only among city councilors and city staff, but also with Newport residents. He said however, he is prepared to work cooperatively with Mr. Voetberg to enhance his performance as city manager and to be an asset for him as he helps guide the city forward.
Councilors Beemer, Sawyer and Swanson were not immediately available for comment.