SLT, city manager brouhaha continues

By Kathryn Reed

South Lake Tahoe City Council members on Feb. 20 will again discuss the future of City Manager Nancy Kerry.

The closed session item is listed as: public employee discipline/dismissal/release. This was the same wording used for the Feb. 12 special meeting. At that time there was no reportable action.

Sources have told Lake Tahoe News the city and Kerry are working on a settlement. She is owed nine month’s severance if she were to be let go without cause. As with all employees, she would also be entitled to compensation for unused sick and vacation time.

Still, though, no one has come forward to say what has led the city and Kerry to be on a path to part ways.

On Feb. 6 Kerry was mandated to turn in her work phone and key card for access to city offices, though she is still technically the city manager. She is receiving her regular paycheck, but is not doing any work. She is not taking sick or vacation pay, nor is she on administrative leave.

“Nancy is currently on regular paid status,” Debbie McIntyre, director of finance, told Lake Tahoe News. “The Finance Department has received no direction from City Council regarding Nancy’s pay status, and as such she will remain on paid status until direction is given. An exempt employee receives full pay whether or not they work full hours, and their pay doesn’t change if they work more than full hours, just the nature of the exempt status employee.”

Councilman Austin Sass has said people have complained about Kerry, but to what extent is not known. People complain about bosses and colleagues all the time. Councilman Tom Davis said no official complaints have been filed.

Lake Tahoe News on Feb. 8 asked the city: “How many complaints have been filed against each of the last three city managers? How many employee lawsuits have been filed against Kerry, O’Rourke and Jinkens? What was the outcome of them?” The city has not provided the answers.

Lake Tahoe News knows of one former employee who filed a lawsuit during Kerry’s tenure, which was settled. There are no other known complaints. This speaks to why Kerry in her five-plus years as city manager had only received glowing reviews, including as recently as June 2017 when she was given a 5 percent raise.

Kerry’s fall from grace comes with more questions than answers.

The relationship became strained once interim City Attorney Nira Doherty came on board.

The only thing known for sure is that Mary Egan of Municipal Resource Group came in last October to assess the culture of the city at the request of Sass, who was mayor at the time. Egan never provided the city with a written report. She talked about her findings in closed session Jan. 23.

Lake Tahoe News requested all correspondence with MRG prior to the contract signing as that would be public record. Suzie Alessi, the city clerk, handles all Public Records Act requests. Again, no response.

Alessi was resent a different PRA on Sunday, with acting City Manager Jeff Meston, Mayor Wendy David and Doherty copied on the email.

Alessi’s response to everyone about this reporter was, “I am really tired of feeling harassed and bullied by her.”

Again, Alessi is failing to do her job. As an elected official her boss is the people, no one at the city.

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    Comments (3)
    1. The Irish Wahini says - Posted: February 19, 2018

      It is rare that anyone ever answers Alessi’s phone at City Hall, and the other 2 lines at the City Clerk’s office are also rarely answered. It is said that Alessi’s is out of the office a lot… Does she work from home? Maybe this is the problem…. The City Manager and staff must rely on the City Clerk’s office for records, history, confirmations and more — and if it isn’t happening – the system becomes broken.

    2. bruce grego says - Posted: February 19, 2018

      Dear Kae: I am concerned about Alessi’s failure to respond. In the early 70s, I participated with other citizens in supporting an initiative making the City Clerk an elected position. The purpose of the initiative was to assure that information available to the public was accessible by the public. At the time, there were allegations that the City Council was controlling the City Clerk’s department and preventing information from being released. Of course, the basic premise is that the person holding this position wants to be independent and believes in the public’s right to know. Our system of government can only work when we elect persons that believe in the system and are committed to good government. We must take care who runs for this position in the next election.

    3. Barry Johnson says - Posted: February 19, 2018

      This looks everything you should NOT do if you want to fire your City Manager. Usually it’s much cleaner to just fire a CM & pay them severance per their contract and that’s it, move on. Here maybe there was a desire on somebody’s part to get rid of the CM for their own reasons but they needed political cover to have a reason, a “for cause”, as the CM has supporters and was just evaluated as outstanding and never had official complaints or grievances filed? THIS MIGHT LOOK LIKE FISHING FOR A CAUSE FOR POLITICAL COVER AND TO GET OUT OF PAYING FULL SEVERANCE. So what do do if this is your goal? Lets look at it like a case study for a fictional city called Lake Town: Handpick a consultant outside of normal processes to do an “Organizational Assessment” sell it to your colleagues as that, even though the intent is to use it for an evaluation. Hide it off any agenda. City Atty does not object and is tasked to shepard a $10,000 contract for a written organizational report. It’s not an evaluation but somebody leaks that CM IS being evaluated to the press and maybe gives a couple of specific names of people who have had beefs with CM. Then allow the organizational consultant to attend a closed session which is now a City Manager evaluation and present their report which is now verbal?Based upon whatever the invisible report says, you then post a closed session to actually fire the CM. It looks bad like there was an investigation and something was found, but there is no $10,000 report, you know the one approved in secret manner. Oh but class, lets look deeper: Does the City have a code on how to fire the CM? Is it being followed? Does the CM employment contract say anything? It says one evaluation per year ( not twice, so maybe call it something else?) and that CM shall receive a written summary of evaluation with time to respond. Did the CM get a copy of the invisible report or was the contract breached? Did no one read it? Where is the City Atty on this? and where is the invisible report, the one approved off of any open agenda? Oh now it’s going to be back on the agenda, after the fact, and maybe we can see the invisible report, even a redacted version of it? What happened between the CM’s last evaluation, the one in the contract, and the second annual secretly initiated one when the consultant delivered the invisible report that would justify a ‘for cause” issue to get out of paying full severance? Maybe nothing, for all we know, as this might look like an entirely tainted process with a foregone conclusion for which a fill in the blank cause was being sought. What will the council do about possible ‘for cause’ issues like items hidden off of agendas, $10,000 contracts apparently not being followed, or possible breaching of employment contracts exposing the city to litigation? It looks like there might be some ‘for cause’ issues at the city. We need more info. Class, you have your homework cut out for you with this case study.