TALENT — Allegations of illegal recordings, personal program awards gained from city purchases, a poor work ethic and unprofessional management style were cited by Talent City Council members in their firing of City Manager Tom Corrigan Monday, effective immediately.
The council approved his firing unanimously in open session following a two-hour executive session, which was closed to the public.
The council also directed City Attorney Christy Monson to enter into negotiations with Corrigan to forestall potential legal action against the city by seeking a waiver. Any agreement would need to be approved by the council.
“It’s been a difficult time," said Mayor Darby Ayers-Flood. "It’s been very stressful for the staff, but the interim leadership did a tremendous job being supportive and sympathetic. I think it concluded as it should have. In transition now we can look forward to a more positive work environment.”
Grounds for termination listed in a letter sent to Corrigan Tuesday included:
Secret, illegal recording of a least two face-to-face communications with a city public official. Under Oregon law, it is not legal to record a conversation between two or more people in person unless all parties have been informed it is being recorded. Illegally recording an in-person conversation is a misdemeanor offense.
Unprofessional or disrespectful work place behavior, including yelling and other expressions of anger. The council noted that much of this behavior was not what it would expect of a supervisor.
Misuse of a personal Costco membership and improper receipt of Costco rewards program dollars earned as a result of city purchases made with the Costco card. This is a potential violation of state ethic laws and the city’s Ethics and Conduct Policy. The recording and disrespectful behavior also do not comply with the city policy, the letter said.
An overall lack of work ethic, including unavailability during the city’s regular business hours. However, the council considered Corrigan’s argument that such absences were allowed as an exempt employee and were not considered grounds for termination.
By email, Corrigan said he would not comment on the advice of his attorney, Ryan Vanderhoff of Hornecker, Cowling, Hansen & Heysell LLP. Vanderhoff also declined to comment.
Corrigan was placed on paid, non-disciplinary leave Nov. 2 while the city undertook an investigation into his performance and potential misconduct. Portland attorney Renee Starr conducted the investigation.
Councilors Ken Baker, Emily Berlant, Stephanie Dolan, John Harrison, Daria Land and Ryan Pederson all voted for the motion, which was offered by Pederson. Ayers-Flood said she would not have voted for the motion if the mayor were allowed to vote.
“I didn't support an element of the motion. What I really mean to say, I understand the motion as it is and I understand the council wanted to offer an option for a waiver,” said Ayers-Flood. “It doesn’t mean I think it was the wrong motion. It doesn't align with my values.”
Corrigan was hired for the top spot in January 2012. His annual salary this fiscal year was budgeted at $108,558. He was city manager in Galena, Alaska, from 2009 through 2011. He had been city manager in Fredonia, Arizona, from 1998 to 2009. He had previously worked in emergency medical services and fire services.
Finance Director Ryan Martin has served as interim city manager since Nov. 15. Community Development Director Zac Moody has been interim Talent Urban Renewal Agency executive director, another position that Corrigan held, for the same period.
City Attorney Monson is with Eugene law firm Speer Hoyt’s Local Government Law Group.
— Tony Boom is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.