Reno Manager Andrew Clinger will finish his time at city hall early next month. While an investigation into allegations of misconduct continues, city council has voted to approve a separation agreement with Clinger. It provides him with about $230,000, mostly in severance.
“I think this is giving him a special treatment that’s above and beyond what is specified in the contract we have for him, and I cannot support the motion,” said councilwoman Jenny Brekhus, who voted against the agreement.
Councilwoman Naomi Duerr voted “yes.”
“The time, the money, and the city resources that have been devoted so far, I think are important to preserve,” Duerr said. “It’s critical that we take this step for the health of the organization.”
The council members who voted against the deal argued that the city should wait until the investigation against Clinger is complete.
Clinger has been accused of sexual harassment by three women. He says he's confident the investigation will clear him of wrongdoing.
To learn more about the council’s controversial decision to approve Clinger’s separation agreement, we checked in with our reporter Bob Conrad for this interview.
KUNR: What are the details of the agreement?
Bob Conrad: Basically, the city manager is entitled to his regular severance, which is $200,000. In addition, he’s going to get $30,000 for his attorney fees.
KUNR: And how much, ultimately, will this cost taxpayers?
BC: Well, there’s a little bit of debate about that, but essentially what was approved was the $230,000 for severance. But on top of that there are the costs of the investigations, which could go up to $150,000. And if you remember, the city manager is being investigated for allegations of misconduct. He faces four complaints from three female city employees.
KUNR: And where are we in that investigation? Have any results been presented?
BC: No results have been made public. City Attorney Karl Hall said that the results of the investigations will go public when they’re received. And he said that last week that those results should be made available approximately mid-October.
KUNR: So, I think the big question is: Why is city council creating this separation agreement now when we don’t have results of the investigation?
BC: And that is a big question that people are asking, but I think the city at this point, they want to move past this situation. And what was said is that they basically want to avoid what happened to the Washoe County School District Board of Trustees and the severance with former superintendent Pedro Martinez. They wanted to avoid a long and protracted and very public negative process. The mayor Hillary Schieve said that this is a time for the city to move forward, but the two people who voted against the severance package, councilmembers Jenny Brekhus and Paul McKenzie, thought it was premature.
KUNR: Bob, can you break down the two “no” votes and their main concerns with proceeding with an agreement without having the results of an investigation?
BC: Sure, Councilman McKenzie was concerned that there still might be legal liabilities, potentially criminal liabilities, for the city since we don’t know the results of the investigation yet. City Attorney Karl Hall did not agree with that and said the severance package does relieve the city of any legal liabilities and claims. However, it was noted that they do want investigations to continue because they felt like the complainants’ deserve their due process as well as if the allegations, for example, might be not true, then that should be brought to light in support of the city manager. We just don’t know yet.
City Councilwoman Jenny Brekhus was also a “no” vote. Her rationale was that the investigation is not completed so we don’t actually know why we’re getting rid of the city manager at this point, other than that there’s just kind of this heightened sense of low morale and negativity at city hall.
KUNR: Bob, anything else you want to mention?
BC: Well, I do think the city used this as a way to move forward. Of course, that can’t really happen until we know exactly what happened, but it’s a very interesting situation. One councilman called it uncharted territory for the city, so I guess at this point it just remains to be seen what exactly has occurred and why.
KUNR: In terms of timeline, what’s next?
BC: What we know is that the results of the investigation should be made public in mid-October and it’s also anticipated that the city will do a search for a new city manager, probably they will launch that by the end of the year.