Claremont council votes 7-2 to fire city manager
McNutt may demand public hearing allowed by city charter to make his case
By PATRICK ADRIAN
Special to the Eagle Times
CLAREMONT -- The Claremont City Council, by a majority of 7 votes to 2, voted to terminate its contract with City Manager Ryan McNutt, citing its dissatisfaction with his communication and information sharing with the council.
Voting in favor to terminate McNutt were Mayor Charlene Lovett, Assistant Mayor Allen Damren, City Councilors Jon Stone, Andrew O’Hearne, Jeremy Zullo, Scott Pope, and Abigail Kier. Voting against were Councilors Nicholas Koloski and Claire Lessard.
Before the vote Koloski voiced his objection to majority’s decision and its process used to reach this decision, which included hiring a mediation consultant to facilitate communication between McNutt and the council.
“I will be voting no on this,” Koloski said. “And I don’t believe in spending taxpayer money to bring in a consultant to improve communications, and not waiting for measured results.”
The council’s meeting, which it posted the previous week, appeared to receive little public attention, and took place the same night as the Claremont School Board public hearing on the superintendent’s proposed budget for 2018-19. Some residents, however, received advance notice of the council’s intent and spoke in opposition before the council entered non-public.
Claremont resident David Putnam said that terminating the city manager was risky and doesn’t produce a good image of Claremont.
“We’ve already lost a city planner and public works director [this year],” Putnam said.
While Putnam said he would not divulge his conversations with former city employees, he said that many employees and residents express a current lack of trust and faith in the council.
Resident and chair of the Claremont Planning Board Richard Wahrlich also expressed his concerns.
“I’m concerned that the city council and city manager can’t come together on a form of conversation,” Warhlich told the council.
Because the city charter requires the council to provide its city manager with 30 days notice prior to termination, the city council voted to place McNutt on paid administrative leave through Jan. 30. The council announced after the vote that former Keene City Manager John Maclean will take over as interim city manager on Jan. 4. Claremont Police Chief Mark Chase will fill the city manager role until then.
McNutt intends to release a public letter tomorrow. The city charter permits McNutt 10 days to request a public hearing to appeal the council’s decision. Reports indicate that McNutt would like to retain his position and intends to request a public hearing.
Though the council did not cite specific incidents, Damren read a list of the council’s dissatisfactions with McNutt, which included not keeping the council sufficiently informed, not communicating with council about city decisions, and not demonstrating a commitment to improve communication methods with the council.