The Canby City Council voted to terminate City Administrator Scott McClure following an executive session Wednesday night, six days after placing him on paid leave and barely four months after he started the job.
The council had moved to place McClure on paid administrative leave last Thursday, following an emergency meeting in executive session. The more recent closed-door meeting was held following the council’s regularly scheduled meeting on Feb. 19.
The council had gone into executive session under a provision of Oregon law to “consider the dismissal or disciplining of, or to hear complaints or charges brought against, a public officer, employee, staff member or individual agent.” The statute also allows the discussion to take place in open session, but only if requested by the employee in question.
Following the brief exec, which included McClure, the council came back into open session and voted 5-1 to terminate the city administrator, with Councilor Traci Hensley the lone dissenter. No reason was given for the abrupt dismissal of the man they’d hired just months earlier.
The council opted to exercise the “no cause” clause of McClure’s contract, Mayor Brian Hodson told the Canby Now Podcast on Thursday. The night before, he had been quoted by the Canby Herald saying, “It’s a legal matter,” in describing why he could not speak publicly.
He wanted to make clear that McClure’s termination itself is not related to a legal matter.
“There is not a legal matter at hand,” he explained. “But, if I or any of the city councilors or staff talked about this outside the executive session, something could get misconstrued and it could turn into a legal matter.”
Because McClure was fired without cause, he will be eligible to receive six months’ of his salary ($150,000 annually) and six months of health insurance, pursuant to his contract. Had he been terminated for cause, he would not be entitled to severance.
McClure was hired this summer following a months-long recruiting process. McClure’s appointment was announced in July but just became official after the City Council approved his contract in September. He started with the city of Canby on Oct. 7.
He replaced Rick Robinson, who retired in October after having served as Canby’s top administrator since 2014.
McClure had previously served as the city administrator of Monmouth since 2007. Prior to that, he had held the position of city manager for Coos Bay and Brush, Colo. He was an analyst for the city of Gladstone from 1989 to 1996.
This is not the first time McClure has been fired from a city manager position. In September 2006, the Coos Bay City Council voted 5-2 to let McClure go after only 23 months on the job.
According to a story in The Register-Guard of Eugene, the council had evaluated McClure six times during his tenure, largely to “try to iron out differences between the manager and the council,” but were unable to come to terms.
“We were unable to resolve it, and felt it was time to terminate the situation,” Mayor Joe Benetti told the RG. “It’s a very progressive city right now, and we want the manager to move in that direction. There are a lot of subdivisions and developers coming in, and we have to have someone willing to keep pace with that. That didn’t seem to be the case (with McClure).”
Then-City Councilor Jeff McKeown said McClure “wasn’t a good fit for what we need here in Coos Bay.”
“We just needed a more aggressive manager who could get the types of things done we need to get done,” McKeown said.
The city of Canby contracted a highly regarded executive search firm, Peckham & McKenney, to recruit and retain McClure last year. The firm’s nationwide search attracted an initial pool of 54 applicants, later winnowed down to two finalists: McClure and then-Harrisburg City Manager Brian Latta, who accepted a position in Dallas after being passed over for the Canby job.
Zeiber said Thursday morning that she has spoken with Peckham & McKenney, and the firm will conduct a new recruitment process for the city at no additional charge, except direct expenses.
Mayor Hodson said he expects the council to discuss appointing an interim administrator at their next meeting, in March.
“Right now, we’re just treating it like our city manager is out of the office, and when that happens, the day-to-day pieces fall to Amanda (Zeiber), our assistant city administrator,” he said.
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