Heidi Zemach for SCN
The Seward City Council approved a $9,000 pay increase for City Manager Jim Hunt Monday night, plus an additional five months of severance pay should his contract be terminated. That brings his pay to $105,000 per year, and the severance pay to nine month’s worth, in addition to any leftover annual leave. The discussion of his contract and his first annual evaluation took place in a recent executive (closed-door) session.
“I personally object,” said Mayor David Seaward as he proposed to amend the proposed revised contract that would decrease the increased nine months of severance pay down to six months. He did not say why he objected. Ristine Casagranda seconded the amendment for purposes of discussion.
“This was discussed in executive session and agreed to by the majority of the council. I don’t think there’s any room for discussion here,” said Hunt. “We are bound by this agreement,” he added later. “There was no objection at the time this was discussed,” said Marianna Keil. “You are not allowed to speak about what was done in executive session,” he was told. “I did object,” Seaward said.
“You cannot take action in executive session,” City Clerk Johanna Kinney reminded Hunt. Therefore, no matter what was discussed in private, there could not legally be any binding agreement made according to Alaska Open Meetings Act “Sunshine” laws. The council agenda statement’s Background & Justification, provided in the packet said Hunt had been employed as City Manager since Nov 1, 2011. It also said the city manager does not participate in standard employee step increases or cost of living allowances, so any pay increase or annual leave accrual must be by amendment to the employment agreement. (SCN was required to file a Freedom of Information Application form in order to recieve information about his current contract, such as his pay, and after we recieved the information we updated this story: HZ)
The council then voted on the mayor’s proposed amendment. It failed 2- 4, with Seaward and Casagranda voting in favor of it, and Christy Terry, Vanta Shafer, Bob Valdatta and Marianna Keil voting against it. Vice Mayor Jean Bardarson was absent. Then the main motion was on the floor. This time the proposed manager’s contract was passed 5-1, with only Seaward voting against it.
At the meeting’s conclusion, following the council member’s comments, Hunt again addressed the issue. “I felt a little ambushed by the mayor tonight” to have had this discussion the night before going to Juneau to ask for $20 million dollars, he said. “What kind of united front does this present?” he asked. He also expressed disappointment over Seaward’s proposed revision to the contract revision that he felt everyone had agreed upon in executive session, and soon after what he felt had been a mend in the two men’s working relationship.
In other matters, council appointed 10 volunteer members to the Seward Recreation Committee, a special ad hoc citizen advisory committee created to look into new recreation-related proposals or projects for Seward. Those appointed included all applicants, including Mica Van Buskirk, Joe Allen, Peggy Hamner, Amy Komarek, Jena Petersen, Jody Tuck, Mike Little, David Paperman, Mike Insalaco and Aspen Rose Aponi. The council also agreed to have Casagranda act as the city liaison to the committee, with Shafer as her stand-in.
The council also unanimously agreed to offer a travel expense stipend of $1,000 each for up to two students who may wish to participate in the Obihiro Student Exchange program in the summer of 2013, the 40th anniversary of that mutual sister-city exchange program.
The council also appointed Bardarson to travel to Juneau for an important legislative reception on Feb 27th to lobby for SMIC development, with Shafer as her back up.
The mayor read out a proclamation supporting the “One Billion Rising” effort to end violence against women, and a Valentine’s Day march at noon, Feb 14 sponsored by SeaView Community Services. The plan is to gather at City Hall and march together to the Alaska SeaLife Center. The community was invited to participate.