After four months as Lebanon city’s manager, Dana Hlavac resigned at the start of the Jan. 8 Lebanon City Council meeting.
“As my sixth month evaluation approaches, I’ve had an opportunity to speak with council members and to my department heads,” Hlavac said while reading from his resignation letter. “It is clear there is an extreme diversity of views in relation to what I’ve been able to bring to city of Lebanon during my brief tenure. Rather than exacerbate the situation, and in an attempt to aid the city of Lebanon, I feel it is appropriate for me to return to Arizona and focus on my family.
It is with the heaviest of hearts and deepest appreciation for the many great staff members, friends, and community volunteers that give so much to this city and who have so readily welcomed me that I therefore tender my resignation for the position of City Manager for the city of Lebanon effective immediately. I wish this council, staff, and the citizens of Lebanon the brightest of futures.”
His resignation followed a half-hour executive session under Oregon Revised Statute 192.660 (2)(B): To consider the dismissal or disciplining of, or to hear complaints or charges brought against, a public officer, employee, staff member or individual agent who does not request an open hearing.
All councilors voted to accept Hlavac’s resignation, except councilor Barry Scott who abstained.
After reading the statement, Hlavac shook hands with Mayor Paul Aziz and several city councilors and walked out the door.
The rest of the meeting was held without a city manager present.
“I feel it appropriate to say that we will be returning to Arizona to regroup and make a determination as to what the good lord has in mind for us,” Hlavac said in an email after the meeting. “We are looking forward to spending time with our son, but will miss the beauty of Oregon and the many friends we have come to have in the area over our time here.”
The city of Lebanon agreed to provide a severance package that includes six months of Hlavac’s annual base salary along with medical and dental benefits. The salary payments will be about $10,400 each month.
These payments were agreed upon as a severance package that was written into Hlavac’s city manager contract.
“In the event the manager voluntarily resigns his position while this contract is in effect, then the manager shall not be entitled to severance pay in accordance with this provision,” according to the contract.
If the city council asks the city manager to resign, he will be entitled to a severance agreement, according to the contract.
“I can’t comment on that. That was in executive session,” Aziz said when asked if the council asked Hlavac to resign before the meeting.
If Hlavac moves from Lebanon within six months, the city will reimburse him up to $5,000 in expenses associated with relocating from Lebanon, according to the severance agreement. The city also will cover up to $5,000 for expenses related to selling Hlavac’s house.
The relocation and expenses related to selling his house were not agreed upon in Hlavac’s contract.
“Because Hlavac left so quickly, the council felt it would be good to give him those other benefits, which was a council decision,” Aziz said.
The severance agreement will terminate if Hlavac finds comparable employment, according to Hlavac’s contract.
Including severance agreements as part of a contract is important to have because they attract the best candidates possible, said Tre Kennedy, city attorney.
Interim city manager
Walt Wendolowski, community development manager, agreed to act as Lebanon’s interim city manager until the city hires a replacement, he said.
Wendolowski was appointed by the city council at a special city council session as interim city manager on Jan. 14.
Wendolowski will receive his regular salary while filling in as interim, Aziz said.
Any major decision that needs to be made, staff will need to work with a new permanent city manager, Aziz said.
“What we’re looking for is someone to be a point of contact,” Aziz said.
Wendolowski will be there to run the city, and not push many goals, Wendolowski said.
“Someone has to be the person who’s responsible for working with department managers,” Wendolowski said. “We work very well as a team, and whatever needs to get done, I’ll be doing. Plus, I’ll be doing my regular development job.”
Wendolowski has worked as Lebanon’s community development manager for 6 years and 4 months. Before that he operated his own consulting firm that did work for 11 cities for about 11 years.
Prothman Group will do another search for a city manager for free, Aziz said.
“We would have to fly people in and pay for their basic expenses,” Aziz said.
Prothman is the recruiting firm that found the last city manager candidates that included Hlavac. There was a two-year guarantee if an employee doesn’t work out, Aziz said.
The last city manager recruitment was done nationally.
A nationwide search was conducted because citizens and councilors felt it best to conduct a wide-ranging search to attract the best qualified candidate, Aziz said.
Having right type of experience for a city management position of a city the size of Lebanon is difficult to find, Aziz said. Someone has to have experience with several different areas including managing city employees, overseeing budgets, and community development.
“Someone really has to have the experience in all those areas,” Aziz said.
That’s why it was important to conduct the search nationally, Aziz said.
City councilors and several citizens said they would prefer to have the recruitment done nationally, Aziz added.
Aziz was unsure when the next recruitment for a city manager would begin, he said.
“My guess is we will be starting in the next couple of weeks,” Aziz said. “Walt will be a good interim for a couple of months.”
The length of Hlavac’s contract was agreed for three years with no stipulation of any probationary period.
A probationary period with a city manager’s contract is not typical, said after the meeting.
“What we had there was recommended by Prothman in what is a standard contract,” Kennedy said. “I have not seen a probationary period in any city manager contract I’m aware of.”
Former City Councilor Ray Weldon spoke during citizen comments saying what a good job Hlavac was doing. Weldon met with Hlavac last week about the city budget, he said.
“Dana, he just surprised the heck out of me. There’s going to be transparency with the way the city spends money,” Weldon said. “You didn’t get to his evaluation. You didn’t even get to that. I hated to see him go. We had somebody there that was really going to do a good job.”
Citizen Bill Sullivan asked councilors if the city manager position was going be similar to the chief of police position, which has had many different people fill that role during the last five years. Sullivan also spoke in support of Hlavac.
“I thought Dana was going to do this town some good,” Sullivan said.
Shelly Garrett said the council has a tough job managing city managers.
“I know you made a really tough decision,” Garrett said. “It wasn’t taken lightly. I’m proud of what you’re doing and I’m pleased with how you did it.”