A majority of the Red Bank City Commission voted Monday to accept the terms of City Manager Tim Thornbury's voluntary resignation, including paying him his full $110,000 annual salary and benefits to serve as a consultant on an as-needed basis until next March.
Mayor Hollie Berry and Vice Mayor Stefanie Dalton voted not to accept the terms of Thornbury's resignation.
Berry, Dalton and several citizens argued that Thornbury's full salary and benefits is too great an expense for the city to pay Thornbury for unspecified consulting services while also paying someone else to do the job.
At the same meeting, commissioners unanimously voted to raise Finance Director John Alexander's pay to match Thornbury's current salary, starting when Alexander takes over as interim city manager May 8.
"What I do not agree with is entering into a contract that saddles the taxpayers of Red Bank with 11 months' expenditure while that contract does not offer any accountability or protection in return," Berry told the Times Free Press in a prepared statement.
In an April 18 email, Thornbury told commissioners the compensation he would receive through the proposed terms of his resignation is less than what he would receive as severance pay under his original employment agreement.
But commissioners said they never considered terminating Thornbury.
Berry said she had a few one-on-one discussions with Thornbury on whether a director of public works should be hired, or if someone should be promoted internally to the role, so that Thornbury could focus on his duties as city manager. Thornbury did not express an interest in hiring anyone to take over public works so no action was taken, she said.
The city manager is employed at the will of commissioners, and the city manager controls the hiring of all other city personnel, according to the city charter.
Thornbury became the city's director of public works in 2011 and has served in that role in addition to the role of city manager since November 2018. He worked in the city's Public Works Department for 27 years before becoming director.
"Recently, I have sensed that some of you desire a new approach in the administration of the city and that a change in the city manager position would facilitate that new approach," Thornbury wrote in his resignation email. "As a citizen and longtime employee of the city, I respect this desire and see it as an opportunity for me to close out my career with the city in a mutually advantageous fashion and to further the greater good of the city and its citizens."
Commissioner Pete Philips said the city has saved a lot of money over the years by hiring Thornbury to serve as both city manager and public works director. He said he feels paying Thornbury the amount he requested is worthwhile to facilitate a smooth transition.
"The city needs to have him to continue to move forward and to take care of the projects that are ongoing right now," Commissioner Ed LeCompte told the Times Free Press, as to why he voted to accept the terms of Thornbury's resignation.
In his resignation agreement, Thornbury agreed to provide assistance as needed to the new city manager or interim city manager with ongoing projects including preparation of the city's budget, seven transportation improvement projects and renegotiation of a land conversion agreement with the National Park Service, in addition to his performing his everyday duties as the city's building inspector.
In exchange, he requested to be compensated at his current salary and benefits, including insurance, auto allowance, and accrued vacation and sick leave at his current pay rate.
Thornbury's resignation agreement also includes a clause stating that the agreement can be amended in writing if approved by the commission.
The city is using the services of the University of Tennessee's Municipal Technical Advisory Service, which are provided at no cost to the city, to develop a job description and advertise for a new city manager.
Contact Emily Crisman at email@example.com.
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