In its first official move Tuesday, the new Spokane Valley City Council asked for – and got – the resignation of City Manager Dave Mercier.
While the move caught many off guard – the item was not added to the agenda until the meeting’s outset – newly elected Mayor Tom Towey said it was Mercier who approached the council about resigning “because he knew that the new city council was going in a new direction.”
Still, the move was hotly debated by the public, city employees and longtime council members Bill Gothmann and Rose Dempsey, who urged the council to take more time with the decision.
New council member Bob McCaslin made the motion to terminate Mercier’s contract “for the convenience of the city” in a “no-fault separation.”
Gothmann made a motion to postpone the decision, which failed. He said it has been the council’s practice to not make a decision unless the item was on the agenda ahead of time in the interests of open government. “None of our constituents have been notified,” he said.
“This is an open meeting,” McCaslin said. “There’s nothing closed about this.”
City employee Patty Bischoff said she was “sticking her neck out” by speaking out. “Our city wouldn’t be what it is if it wasn’t for Mr. Mercier,” she said.
As candidates, Dean Grafos and McCaslin were critical of Mercier’s contract as too generous and Brenda Grassel pointed out that Mercier was allowed to live outside the city and still run his consulting business. He has been the city’s first and only city manager.
McCaslin’s motion passed 5-2, with Dempsey and Gothmann opposed. Gary Schimmels joined those supporting Mercier’s ouster.
After the vote, Mercier read from a prepared statement offering his resignation and praising the city staff. “They have done terrific work,” he said. “They have my admiration and I’m proud to have been associated with them.” Mercier then got up and left the meeting.
Mercier will be on paid administrative leave until Feb 5.
Grassel said after the meeting that the new council members met with Mercier a month ago to talk about his continued employment. Mercier was not available for further comment.