Newcastle City Council fires city manager, cuts more than $1 million from budget
January 13, 2010
By Tim Pfarr
NEW — 12:22 a.m. Jan. 13, 2010
At a special Newcastle City Council meeting Tuesday night, the council voted 6-1 to terminate City Manager John Starbard’s contract, effective immediately.
The council appointed Rob Wyman, a former community development director for the city, to take over as interim city manager for the next six months.
During the four-hour meeting, the council also cut more than $1 million of expenses from its 2010 budget. Of those cuts, more than $800,000 was cut from the 2010 capital budget. Newcastle is located within the Issaquah School District.
Shortly after the 7 p.m. meeting began, the City Council moved into a 45-minute executive session for what the meeting agenda said was to “evaluate the performance of a public employee.” Immediately after returning from the executive session, Councilman Bill Erxleben moved to terminate Starbard’s contract. Councilman Rich Crispo seconded the motion.
During discussion of the motion, nearly every member of the City Council gave his or her opinion.
“Voters want the city to head in a new direction,” Erxleben said regarding why he made his motion.
Crispo said there was a discrepancy between Starbard’s vision for the city and the wishes of city residents.
“I believe that what he thinks it can become is very different from what the residents want it to become,” he said.
Deputy Mayor Steve Buri said the city’s relationships with other agencies have deteriorated with Starbard as city manager, and he said he would support the motion because of that.
“I think those relationships, sadly, have been damaged beyond repair,” Buri said.
The only dissenting opinion was that of Sonny Putter.
“I think this motion is far too premature,” he said.
After voting to terminate Starbard’s contract, Mayor John Dulcich asked if Starbard would be willing to privately meet with several city officials to discuss the details of the termination. Starbard declined, saying he would not discuss the matter with city officials without legal representation. He then set his keys on his desk in the council chambers and left the meeting.
Next, Erxleben motioned to appoint Wyman to the position. He said he previously spoke with Wyman, and Wyman said he would agree to take the position.
The City Council appointed Wyman by a 6-1 vote, with Putter again dissenting. Wyman will leave his job as a real estate consultant and take over today as Newcastle’s new city manager. The city will pay Wyman $10,000 a month, which is one-third less than what Starbard was being paid.
After the City Council finished its city manager deliberations, it proceeded to make changes to the 2010 budget. Facing a $363,000 budget shortfall this year, Erxleben motioned to direct city staff to take steps to reduce operating expenses by 3 percent, which translates to about $186,000 in cuts.
“I think it can be done,” Erxleben said. “I do see the opportunity to do it.”
The motioned passed unanimously.
Next, the City Council voted to terminate is contract with its lobbyist, Mike Doubleday. Through the contract, city officials must give 30 days’ notice of termination, thus forcing the city to retain Doubleday’s services for another month.
“This is not a reflection on Mike, but on the shortfall we’re facing,” Buri said.
The City Council voted 6-1 to terminate Doubleday’s contract, with Putter dissenting.
Furthermore, the City Council also voted to halt expansion of the Lake Boren Park playground in favor of just making safety improvements, and it also voted to put a halt on the creation of signs for the transit center.