A Warrenton resident Tuesday asked the city’s board of aldermen if they would end employment contracts for two top city officials.
The contracts for Greg Houdyshell, the city’s police chief and Director of Operations/Finance Officer Terri Thorn were proposed by then-Mayor Greg Costello and passed by the board on a 5-1 vote in a closed session April 3.
John Miller told the board he was not dissatisfied with the work of Thorn and Houdyshell and did not wish to see them removed from their positions, but said he thought it was unfair that contracts were only offered to two city employees.
During his brief remarks, Miller asked each board member if they were in favor of the contracts or if they would be interested in passing an ordinance to repeal them.
“I speak not only for myself, but for many other voters,” Miller said. “Therefore, I would respectfully ask, for the record, each individual board member if they would support and pass an ordinance to terminate and or not renew the mentioned contracts.”
Aldermen Phil Tallo, Beth Kendall and Fred Flake responded that they were in favor of the contracts, while John Clark and John Cornell said they didn’t support them.
“I’m not in favor of the contracts, but it’s water under the bridge,” Cornell said. “It’s not good policy for the city.”
“I agree with Cornell,” Clark said. “I stand by my vote, but I was a minority. My policy is to stick with the majority and work with them.”
Alderman Jim Dreyer said he “didn’t know anything about (the contracts)” and didn’t want to voice an opinion.
Costello proposed the contracts because he said he believed Houdyshell and Thorn had been targeted for termination by incoming Mayor Jerry Dyer.
Thorn and Houdyshell are the only city employees who have employment contracts.
The contracts, which automatically renew each year, state that Houdyshell and Thorn cannot be fired without just cause or they would be entitled to compensation equal to a year’s salary.
Thorn is currently the highest-paid employee in the city with a $79,536.06 annual salary. She has been with the city since March 2003 and has been director of operations since January 2008.
Houdyshell, meanwhile, is the second-highest paid with a $64,890 salary. He has been employed with the city since 2008 and has been police chief since September 2009.
In his first meeting after being sworn in as Warrenton mayor, Jerry Dyer criticized the decision by the board of aldermen to grant employment contracts to two department heads calling it “unethical.”
Dyer was sworn in April 6, three days after winning a six-person race. The swearing-in ceremony occurred during an impromptu ceremony at the county courthouse. The oath of office was administered by 12th Judicial Circuit Presiding Judge Keith Sutherland.
“My reasoning for being sworn in early was what I term damage control,” Dyer said at the time. “I was overly concerned and appalled at what happened at the April 3 meeting with what Mr. (Stan) Shelton alluded to. I thought it was unethical to offer contracts by a board that was in their 11th hour of session and getting ready to leave office and encumbering this new board to follow up on their actions.”
He added, “I wasn’t sure what was going to happen next. I disagreed with their action. I was afraid I was going to come on board and everybody was going to get a bonus, everybody was going to get a contract. I wasn’t sure where it was going.”
As a result of the contract controversy, resident Stan Shelton filed a petition with the state auditor’s office to have the city audited.
The audit, which began Sept. 10 and should be complete by the end of this year, is expected to cost the city between $50,000 to $65,000.
The audit results are expected to be released sometime in March or April of 2013.