Interim city manager's job on the line
A bitter debate over naming Stacy Williams as the permanent city manager sparked rhetorical fireworks during a packed Cleveland City Council meeting Tuesday night.
The agenda at the special-called session included two items that stood in stark contrast to each other: either terminate Williams’ interim role or name him as a fulltime city manager.
Williams will keep his city job — for now — after the council split in a 3-2 vote to name him the permanent city manager, though critics on the dais questioned a “golden parachute” built into an incentive package.
Mayor Richard Boyett — no fan of the city manager — vowed to keep placing Williams’ job on the chopping block every session.
“From this point forward, I am going to put this on every agenda to fire him,” said an impassioned Boyett.
In addition to the mayor, council members Marilyn Clay and Danny Lee indicated it was time for Williams to go, citing both frustrations with how he was hired Jan. 7 as the interim city manager and their communications with him.
Lee said the council failed to initiate a proper search for the best candidate, even if that meant Williams turned out to be the ideal choice.
The councilman laid out his problems with how everything was handled.
“I heard through the grapevine that we wanted to name a city manager, whether I was there or not,” said a frustrated Lee.
Williams’ supporters included council members Carolyn McWaters, James Franklin and Delores Terry.
Terry offered the most vocal defense of the embattled manager, adding the city made a good choice with his appointment.
“This man has not done a thing in the world wrong,” said Terry.
During the heated back-and-forth exchanges between the elected leaders, some of the rhetoric appeared to turn personal.
A fed-up resident in the gallery stood up, identified himself as a veteran and said he’d heard enough bickering.
“This is the first City Council meeting I have ever been to (in) my home city. I’m a veteran, and I’m embarrassed by this,” said the onlooker, whose name was not immediately available. “I am sick and tired of this crap that is going on with all of y’all. Y’all are supposed to be professional, supposed to be Christian, and none of y’all are acting like it at all now.”
Both the crowd and council cheered his words, and the mood in the chamber momentarily seemed to calm.
After the council initially voted 3-2 to retain Williams, the elected leaders moved on to the issue of permanently hiring Williams as city manager.
Williams was asked if he wanted to address the council; he did.
“I have sat here through two meetings of people that don’t know me, coming to this podium and questioning my integrity and my character,” said Williams.
His employment package includes an annual salary of $140,000, unchanged from the agreement former City Manager Bobby Pennington received — except for an increase in car allowance.
However, some of the council questioned an incentive package with a socalled “golden parachute.”
According to Boyett, Williams will receive an estimated $350,000 to $400,000 if he is ever asked to step down from a permanent position.
“You are actually being held hostage because someone wants a golden parachute,” Boyett said.
Williams countered, saying the deal would protect his family — especially since Boyett has made no secret he wants Williams to leave.
In the follow-up vote, McWaters, Terry, and Franklin voiced their approval for Williams to be the permanent city manager. Clay and Lee dissented; the mayor only votes to break a tie.
In other business, the council actually did agree on one thing: fireworks.
Members voted to increase the length of the annual Fourth of July Fireworks show at a cost of $25,000.
A raucous Cleveland City Council meeting descends into near-chaos, prompting a local military veteran to stand up and take the city's leadership to task. See the clip here from 1:17:45 to 1:20:05