By JIM KEVLIN • for allotsego.com
ONEONTA – The second effort to remove a city manager in as many years will be the topic of a special Common Council meeting scheduled for 6:30 Friday evening in City Hall.
A notice of the meeting was sent out at 6:36 this evening by City Clerk Doug Kendall, alerting the public that Acting Mayor Russ Southard called the meeting at the request of Council members Larry Malone, Mike Lynch, Maureen Hennessy and Madolyn O. Palmer. No particulars were provided.
In an interview this evening, however, Southard said Council intends to vote on a three-month severance package for Murphy, as called for in his contract. “It’s not clear cut how it’s going to come out,” he said. “Who knows if someone’s going to change their minds?”
According to various inputs, however, it was learned that Southard and Hennessy this morning asked City Manager Martin Murphy for his resignation, and he declined to give it.
If Murphy were asked to resign and declined to do so, he would be entitled to a public hearing, the mayor said. Council would then vote on contining the manager or ending the relationship.
According to some accounts, the resignation request came out of a Wednesday evening meeting, nominally called to initiate a “360 review” of the manager’s performance since he took office last Oct. 1.
No formal vote was taken Wednesday night, but the mayor and Hennessy believed there was a 5-3 consensus, with Lynch, Malone and Palmer also favoring asking for Murphy’s resignation. Council members Bob Brzozowski and David Rissberger opposed the move, and Chip Holmes, who was out of town, called in to oppose it as well.
As Southard observed, if any one of those who opposed Murphy Wednesday evening changed their minds by Friday eveing, any vote would be 4-4, stymieing action. “It’s not clear cut how it’s going to go,” the mayor said.
Council member Lynch had been the sole vote against hiring Murphy last year, saying he favored the elevation of city Finance Director Meg Hungerford to the job; other council members objected to her hiring, saying she lacked some of the city-manager credentials called for in the charter.
As finance director, Hungerford would become acting city manager if Murphy were to depart; it was unclear if any of the council members would then seek to put her in the position permanently.
Murphy succeeded Oneonta’s first city manager, Mike Long, who resigned abruptly in May 2014 after only 20 months in office.
Reached this evening, Gary Herzig, the city’s mayor apparent – he is the only person who filed a nominating petition for the office by last Thursday’s deadline – would only say that he supports the charter and believes he will be able to successfully implement it after taking office Jan. 1.
“I don’t think it’s my place to get involved in a personnel matter from a distance,” he said.
Since Murphy assumed the office last October, three weeks before the sudden passing of Mayor Dick Miller, there have been reports of some resistance to policies he initiated in an effort to implement the professional management called for in the new charter, which city voters approved by a large margin in November 2011.
Some of that unhappiness broke into the open in the spring, when Lynch said Council had lost confidence in the city manager and he would have to leave. The rest of the Council members denied that was the case, and affirmed their support for the former Cortland county manager.