Elliott accepts city’s settlement offer

The May 5 decision to fire city manager Bill Elliott will cost the city more than expected. Following an executive session at the May 12 Sequim City Council meeting, the council voted 6-1 to offer the former city manager a settlement that, according to council member Erik Erichsen, is “to allow the city and Bill to move on.” Elliott signed the settlement later that evening.

Elliott’s abrupt termination called into question whether the council was in violation of his May 2001 contract. During a May 6 planning commission meeting, Sequim’s Chief of Police Robert Spinks, who stopped by the meeting, said the city would adhere to Elliott’s contract “and more.” Spinks was named interim city manager during the council’s May 12 meeting. There was debate among council members as to whether Spinks should carry on until a permanent city manager is found or until another interim manager can be brought in.

“It took one day to oust our last city manager of six years. If we want to oust him, we oust him. What’s it matter what we say?” Councilman Bill Huizinga said. Huizinga was absent when Elliott was terminated.

The council members agreed that Spinks should continue as city manager and police chief until a permanent replacement is found. With his new duties, Spinks will receive a larger salary, which is “at least the same as the city manager,” according to city attorney Craig Ritchie.

Elliott’s settlement with the city gives him $8,027.07 per month for 12 months equaling $96,324.80, plus 90 days pay equaling $26,675.49. Elliott also will receive $21,183.58 of accrued vacation time, $7,134.75 accrued sick time and a car allowance of $1,000. The total compensation package is $152,318.62.

Councilman Walt Schubert said the four council members who voted to terminate Elliott — Mayor Laura Dubois, Ken Hays, Erik Erichsen and Susan Lorenzen — had cost the city a lot of money and “hurt a good manager and a good man.” Schubert added that Sequim’s proclivity for firing staff would come back to haunt the city, giving it a bad reputation for being difficult and making the search for a new city manager that much harder. Schubert voted against the settlement offer.

Sequim citizen and Realtor Mike McAleer called Elliott “a real leader,” listing to the council his many strengths including honesty, competence, courage and being forward-looking.

“I believe Bill had a real vision for this city,” McAleer said. “I believe we’ve given up on a great leader and I’m sorry to see him go.”

Planning commissioner Michael East took a decidedly harsher tone with the council. Reading from a letter, East said, “The extent of mismanagement, arrogance and poor judgment shown by the new city council members, including the firing of Bill Elliott, has led me to lose faith in their ability to adequately serve this community and I ask that they voluntarily resign or face a possible recall from office.”

Dubois, who signed off on the settlement offer, thanked East for his comments.

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