Disagreements over roles and job duties apparently led Mayor Mary Verner’s chief of staff to resign.
“I believe that the chief of staff and city administrator had difficulties resolving their approaches to their roles here. I expected them to work through those difficulties, but that didn’t work out,” Verner said in her first public comments about the announced departure of chief of staff Mark Earley, whose last day on the job will be April 11. “I’m disappointed, but I respect both Mark Earley and (City Administrator) Ted Danek.”
Verner became mayor in November and rearranged the mayoral staff. She changed the title of chief operating officer to city administrator and created the chief of staff position. She also made surprise picks for the jobs: Danek and Earley are military officers who had not worked in city government.
Earley, a retired Army colonel, said Friday he plans to remain in Spokane. “The fit did not work for me,” he said.
Earley, 55, declined to say more on his reason for leaving, but he said he harbors no ill will for the mayor and has tremendous respect for City Hall employees.
“I just think the world of her,” he said.
The system hasn’t worked smoothly, Earley said, but he added that the problem might be the new arrangement.
“I don’t think it has had enough time to grow,” he said.
Verner said she had planned to better define Danek’s and Earley’s roles. Danek was supposed to be focused on relations between the city and other governments, the business community and others. Earley was more focused on staff communication and providing a link between the mayor and City Council.
“I had some awareness that the structure itself might be confusing to some of the staff who had not been accustomed to working with both a city administrator and a chief of staff,” she said.
An attempt to reach Danek, who is vacationing this week in Hawaii, was unsuccessful Friday afternoon. He said Thursday that the mayor told him of Earley’s resignation just before he left.
Verner said she will decide in the next two weeks if the chief of staff position will be filled or if there will be job changes in the mayor’s office.
“It’s a structure that can work,” she said. “It didn’t work in this particular instance.”
In the meantime, Danek will fill both roles, much like his predecessor, Chief Operating Officer John Pilcher.
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