The Tempe City Council fired its city manager, Charlie Meyer, on Jan. 28 after a 5-2 vote.
Meyer responded to spreading rumors regarding his resignation by sending a mass email on Jan. 25 to all city employees stating that he expected to be fired in the following weeks.
“The rumors are circulating that I have resigned my position as Tempe’s city manager,” Meyer wrote in the email. “While I have not resigned my position, I do expect to be fired by the city council within the next couple of weeks.”
Councilman Joel Navarro said the email was a surprise to the council.
“The email was a hard thing,” Navarro said. “It seemed a little awkward, and it brought attention to the process of looking at his contract.”
Navarro said the email did not trigger the immediate meeting that Monday, because the council was already discussing Meyer’s contract, and the email sped up the process.
Previous meetings on Meyer’s contract were executive meetings and were strictly confidential. Rumors began about Meyer’s termination despite the confidentiality of the discussion over his contract.
Mayor Mark Mitchell said he did not know anything about these rumors.
“I was surprised by the email,” Mitchell said. “I did not expect (it).”
Meyer was hired as city manager in December 2007.
“Three to five years is typical for a city manager,” Navarro said. “We can terminate him at anytime (without reason). I will expect any manager to understand that.”
At the Jan. 28 meeting, five members of the council, including Mitchell, decided to terminate Meyer’s contract.
Councilman Corey Woods said at the meeting the email became the deciding factor for Meyer’s termination.
“What really concerned me was the email that was sent out this past Friday to our employees,” Woods said. “I thought to myself, ‘If I personally sent out an email of that nature to the city employees that I worked with at my job, would I be allowed to remain in my position?’ … and the answer I came back to pretty immediately was ‘no.’”
Other council members said the email was a contributing factor, but Meyer lacked communication skills with the council.
“Every day is an evaluation,” Mitchell said. “It is an important position for the city and it is important for the city manager to communicate and collaborate with council. I’m looking forward to getting a new city manager.”
Communication seemed to be the recurring issue for the mayor and council members when addressing Meyer’s termination. Navarro said Meyer failed to communicate properly to Navarro and the other members of council throughout his five years as city manager.
“Communication is one of those concerns I’ve always had with him,” Navarro said.
The council heard public concerns during elections and when Meyer proposed not recording public hearings in city council meetings.
Despite the controversy, many residents and two council members said they appreciated Meyer’s work.
Councilman Kolby Granville said at the meeting that Meyer regularly assisted the council in providing information to improve the city.
“I respect Charlie for his truth-telling, for his timeliness,” Granville said. “The time to (fire someone) is after a series of annual or semiannual warnings. Because even if he should be fired, what is the message that sends to all of the rest of the city? That if the winds change, your time has come.”
Granville and Vice Mayor Onnie Shekerjian were the only two council members who voted not to terminate Meyer’s contract.
“Collectively … everyone expressed their opinion … and what direction we want to go in,” Navarro said. “This is a new opportunity for us.”
Jeff Kaluga was appointed as acting city manager while the council goes through the process of hiring someone.
Meyer stated in his email he enjoyed working as city manager for the Tempe.
“For the last five years it has been my honor to have served with the employees for the city of Tempe, and (I) trust that you will carry on with the highest standards of excellence and integrity,” Meyer wrote.
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