City councilors approve new city manager’s contract

Tentative start date is Nov. 1 once contract is signed

If he accepts a slightly amended contract, Sequim’s next city manager Matthew Huish of Sandy, Utah, could start the day before the Nov. 2 General Election, when five city council seats are up for the vote.

In another 4-3 split, Sequim city councilors voted Monday night to offer Huish $180,000 in annual salary, $17,000 in relocation expenses, and city retirement and health benefits.

The vote follows a decision earlier this month when councilors chose Huish, Sandy’s chief city administrative officer, as city manager following a three-month search and two days of in-person interviews on Sept. 9 and 10.

Huish was unavailable for comment Tuesday, but said in a previous interview he’d prefer to wait until negotiations are finalized to comment.

City staff said his contract isn’t finalized until he signs off on an amendment that omits a $2,000 stipend for temporary housing and related expenses if permanent housing cannot be secured prior to relocation.

Councilors voted 4-3 for the amendment, with councilors Rachel Anderson, Brandon Janisse and Tom Ferrell opposed.

There was no discussion before or after the votes and a 30-minute executive session.

Anderson and Janisse said they voted no because had concerns with the contract. Anderson said in a phone interview the salary “was extremely generous, which isn’t comparable to a city of our size” while Janisse wrote via email that “he didn’t feel it was a fiscally acceptable contract.”

Former city manager Charlie Bush, who resigned in January after a majority of councilors called for his resignation, had a salary of $140,470.

In June, councilors voted — with Ferrell and Janisse opposed — to increase the salary for the city manager to $180,000 to account for increased real estate prices.

Councilor Sarah Kincaid said in a phone interview she thinks Huish’s contract is fair and that council had already discussed raising the salary with the city’s finance department during a council meeting.

“It keeps the position competitive and we want to do the best we can with that,” she said.

Anderson added that she was concerned about Huish’s start date so close to the election, too.

“Maybe there isn’t good timing, but it feels like whoever wins the election, and democratically represents the people in the community, should have been given the opportunity to have a voice in the matter,” she said. “If there’s a whole new council they have to deal and make the best of it.”

Kincaid said Huish’s Nov. 1 start date is the soonest he could start and she feels good about the hire.

“He has a lot of experience in city government and the public sector,” she said.

At Monday’s city council meeting, some Sequim residents brought up concerns about hiring Huish despite cleared allegations of sexual harassment in Sandy over emails to a coworker in May 2018. Councilor Keith Larkin said in a previous interview that councilors were aware of the allegations and agreed it “wasn’t really a situation we felt required much consideration.”

Contract

According to the pending contract, Huish would be an at-will employee with no fixed term, but it states he and the city council hope for the term to be at least five years. He’ll also receive pay adjustments based on annual performance reviews by the city council, the contract states.

City councilors also agreed to let Huish provide assistance to the City of Sandy through Jan. 3, 2022 as they hire a new administrator. When not working for Sequim, he’ll take leave without pay as he’ll be compensated by Sandy for his time consulting them, the contract states.

Huish will receive the city’s standard benefits, retirement plan and be paid $17,000 for relocation fees, but he must repay that amount if he ends his employment before 18 months.

He will tentatively also receive a $400 a month car allowance and allowed to budget for professional dues and subscriptions for professional development.

If terminated for any reason other than cause, the contract states Huish will receive 12 months salary and health benefits. If he is terminated with cause, the city will only be obligated to pay for accrued compensation and benefits.

Just cause is defined in the contract; for example, for willfully neglecting job duties, being convicted of a felony or misdemeanor of any crime, and/or dishonesty in the performance of his job duties.

Huish said he lived in the Seattle/Tacoma area growing up and for his early college years as a physical therapist. He transitioned into healthcare administration and later city administration and has lived in Utah for 21 years.

In Sandy, Huish oversees 10 department directors, 600 full-time benefited staff and 300 seasonal part-time employees under an approximate $115 million annual budget.

In Sequim, he’ll work with current interim city manager Charisse Deschenes, also a city manager finalist, who said she plans to stay on as assistant city manager and help Huish be successful.

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