Stavney resigns as Eagle manager
EAGLE — After 30 months on the job, Eagle Town Manager Jon Stavney officially resigned his post Tuesday night as a standing-room-only crowd urged the Eagle Town Board to reinstate him.
In a 3-2 vote, with Mayor Yuri Kostick and town board members Doug Seabury and Sarah Baker voting in favor and members Andy Jessen and Kevin Brubeck opposed, the Town Board accepted Stavney’s negotiated resignation. The separation agreement will pay Stavney five months of his regular salary along with accrued vacation and sick time. The total, after taxes, will be $39,052. The agreement differs from Stavney’s employment contract, which stipulated six months of severance pay.
The agreement states Stavney will not seek future employment from the town. However, as a matter of form, that stipulation is standard in such agreements. In fact, a future board could choose rehire Stavney.
The Town Board generated some controversy at the beginning of their Stavney discussion by adjourning into executive session. Prior to Tuesday night’s meeting, Kostick pledged that the board would hear public comment prior to talking action on the matter.
Board members noted that they were adjourning to hear new information and stressed that action would not occur during the executive session.
When they returned 20 minutes later, they announced there had been a resignation agreement between the town and Stavney, but before they took formal action on the matter, they faced an agitated crowd that was strongly in Stavney’s camp
Resident John Cook said he had hoped to offer suggestions for how to move forward with Stavney staying on. However, with the negotiated separation announcement, Cook said the Town Board had already decided to part ways with its manager. Cook said as a result, Town Board members will face a demoralized staff and an untrusting public.
“The more you stir something like this, the more it stinks,” Cook said.
Resident Mitch Hayne noted that the vote to suspend Stavney was reported as unanimous, but he questioned if that was in fact the case.
“A number of board members ran in the last election on a platform of transparency. Stating where you stand on this issue has nothing to do with executive sessions or personnel privacy — be clear to us in your position and why the decision and the timing are the best choices for the town,” Hayne said.
Just four months
A common theme in Tuesday’s hearing was the fact that Stavney’s contract is up for renewal in April after the next municipal election. Five of the seven town board members will be up for election at that time. Several citizens argued that any decision regarding Stavney’s future with the town should be made by the new board.
“Let’s see who wins and let that council make a determination,” said Edwards resident Michael Cacioppo.
“If you make a decision tonight, you are going to saddle a future board with it,” said Larry Benway.
Benway noted that while there is obvious conflict between Stavney and the board, that isn’t necessarily a detriment.
“You don’t hire a town manager to agree with you. You hire a town manager to give you good advice,” Benway said.
As the evening progressed, the tone of citizen comment became more pointed.
“You are hiding behind it being a unanimous vote and it being a personnel decision and that is just crap,” said Eagle resident Joy Harrison.
Harrison also questioned the credentials of the board members to make the decision, noting that three of the six members present Tuesday night — Town Board member Anne McKibbin was absent — were appointed to their posts.
“I do resent the fact that there are three appointees making this decision. Especially Goeff (Grimmer), you have only been on the board two months and you have no record working with Jon,” she said. “You guys are totally eroding our trust.”
Resident Tom Oden said the board owed the citizens of the town an explanation for their actions.
“If half of what I have heard is true, there should be resignations on your side, not him,” Oden said. “I would not want to be any of you at City Market. You have to be accountable.”
When it came time to vote on the separation agreement, the truth of the reported unanimous board regarding the Stavney issue crumbled. Town Board member Andy Jessen said, “I fully support Jon and I have from day one. I think he has done a good job for us and could continue to do a good job for us.”
“I am one voice and this voice supports Jon,” Jessen said. “I won’t support accepting Jon’s resignation at this point.”
Likewise, Town Board member Kevin Brubeck voiced his support for Stavney.
“I like Jon, but liking him is not enough. I do respect him,” Brubeck said.
Brubeck said that the town does need to move past the issue and suggested that the next election will ultimately decide the matter.
“We have five seats available, and we have a town that needs to be run,” he said.
He also noted that while the issue is testy, it is good to see people in Eagle engaged in the public process.
“I would like to see this enthusiasm every week. Well, perhaps not every week,” said Brubeck.