A pattern of abrasive and unprofessional conduct led the Lebanon City Council to request the resignation of former City Manager Gary Marks, according to reports released Monday by the city of Lebanon.
Marks was placed on paid administrative leave effective Aug. 15 following an executive session of the City Council. The council held an additional executive session on Thursday, Aug. 29 and on that day requested Marks’ resignation, which he submitted.
News organizations submitted Freedom of Information Act requests with the city of Lebanon seeking any documents related to the process. These requests were denied by the city, but on appeal the Linn County District Attorney’s Office ordered that the documents be released. The city released copies of the report which redacted the names of some individuals cited.
The report concluded that: “Interviews with most of Marks’ direct reports as well as a number of other City employees reveal a clear pattern of reactive and abrasive behavior on the part of Marks. While many of the specific examples of this behavior identified by those interviewed were not recent incidents, employees clearly perceive that this type of conduct continues.”
The investigation was conducted by Amy S. Ahrendt of Attorney-Conducted Workplace Investigations.
One individual whose name is not redacted in the report is former Human Resources Director Lori O’Mara. A witness observed an interaction between Marks and O’Mara on May 17, 2019 and that witness subsequently approached City Councilor Rebecca Grizzle with her concerns. Grizzle recommended that she contact Council President Jason Bolen.
Bolen then spoke to O’Mara, who provided a written description of three alleged incidents between her and Marks, as well as information on alleged interactions with other city employees. In July, O’Mara submitted a letter to the City Council members which restated her concerns. O’Mara resigned her position effective Aug. 1, 2019.
The report outlines a series of incidents in which employees describe their perceived negative interactions with Marks. The report also includes Marks’ responses to descriptions of these incidents.
In relation to the May 17 incident, O’Mara described herself struggling to hold back her frustration, tears and embarrassment after being confronted by Marks “who had a visibly upset and angry look on his face, and was so angry he was almost shaking.”
Marks remembered the incident differently, stating that “his voice was calm and his communication was not ‘outside the professional norm’ for ‘any fast-paced’ office environment. Marks stated that he felt urgency and was hurried because he needed the information from O’Mara, but he “was not screaming or shaking.”
Marks stated that after reflecting on the incident of May 17, he did not think he did anything wrong. “He stated that, while he knows he makes mistakes, he ‘(doesn’t) feel (he) made a mistake in this case,’” the report said.
The city of Lebanon has appointed Ron Whitlatch, the engineering services director, to serve as interim city manager. The search for a new permanent city manager will begin in early 2020.
Marks could not be reached for comment Monday night.