The following was published in the Valley Journal on April 24, 2013 written by Polson resident Bob Fulton.
The Valley Journal reported on April 10 that the city did not pay the city manager 7.07 percent in retirement wages for 22 months, based on a contract signed in 2011. Now the city is being sued by the manager for $49,000 plus costs.
The minutes of the Oct. 15, 2012, council meeting provide insight into how the city got itself into this situation. On page 7 of the minutes of that meeting, an agenda item requested by the city attorney was identified as “Approve amendment to city manager employment agreement.” The city attorney began by saying, “This is basically a housekeeping issue.”
The third sentence in his presentation states the apparent basis for the lawsuit. “He (the city attorney) said the contract should have contained language to allow payment of the city’s portion of PERS directly to city manager Crossett if he elected out of PERS.” After much discussion, the council elected to ignore the attorney’s request to amend the contract and to not pay the back PERS wages to the manager, relying on the manager’s signature on the contract.
Taxpayers should understand that the contract was not downloaded from “legalcontracts.com,” nor did it just drop magically from the heavens. The city attorney drafted the contract in 2011. The taxpayers will pay for the “housekeeping issue” the council chose not to correct, at the least paying to defend the city against the filed lawsuit.
The council has already decided to not renew the manager’s contract, but taxpayers should question why he failed to notice his checks were $472.28 short for almost two years and why neither he nor the attorney called attention to the attorney’s error over that period.
With the regrettable history resulting from the impact fee ordinance error by the city attorney, a reasonable citizen may wonder why more attention was not paid to the manager’s contract by the council, or the manager, before the contract was signed. While the council searches for a new manager, either an interim or a permanent appointment, the taxpayers should demand competence and integrity in the selection.