UPDATE: Council Considered Terminating Bob Downey Before His Resignation
Mayor Ed Kelley said, "It was time for new leadership. It was time for a change."
Updated 6 a.m. Wednesday
A group of Cleveland Heights City Council members met with former City Manager Bob Downey April 9 and told him they were considering terminating him before he resigned April 13, Mayor Ed Kelley said today.
"It was time for new leadership. It was time for a change," Kelley said.
Though he did not confirm who was in the meeting, Kelley said he and members of council were there and "talked to him about moving in a different direction ... The majority of council felt that it was time to move in a different direction."
Kelley said Downey's 2012 performance review was "not good" and his 2011 assessment was also "weak," but he would not go into details.
Kelley said that Downey was not accused of any illegal activity while he was city manager.
"The position of city manager in any city is not a lifetime appointment," Kelley said.
City Councilman Jason Stein said council members discussed the possibility that they may not renew his contract, and the decision was not unanimous.
"I definitely cannot speak for council or my colleagues, but as far as for me, Bob has done very well for the city of Cleveland Heights. He’s done a good job for the last 25 years, but there comes a time when we need some new ideas and we need to look at doing business differently," Stein said.
Stein said Downey's contract is reviewed annually.
City Councilwoman Phyllis Evans said she already misses him.
"Bob spent many years being a great city manager, he had great experience, he was always so professional, so knowledgeable. I thought he was really quite good. You could always talk to him about any subject without a whole lot of attitude," Evans said. "He made the job a little bit easier, being on council. I’m going to miss him. I think it’s going to be very difficult to replace him."
Downey worked for the city for more than 30 years. He retired and then was rehired, his rehire effective in 2009, Law Director John Gibbon said.
Instead of getting paid for accrued sick and vacation time and severance pay, Downey received $75,000. He was paid $125,000 a year when he left, said Gibbon.
"There was a dispute over what Bob might be entitled to under that employment agreement with a resignation," Gibbon explained. "The $75,000 was a compromise and to settle the dispute and to settle any issues having to do with any liability that the city might have to Bob, or that Bob might have to the city with respect to his employment and his resignation and what he was entitled to."
Council appointed Susanna Niermann O'Neil, community services director since 1989 and vice city manager, to take over the role at the regular council April 16.
Kelley said the plans are to conduct a national search for Downey's replacement. He said he's already heard from firms who are interested in assisting with the search.
Vice Mayor Dennis Wilcox said the city will look for someone who can handle all the major responsibilities of the job — managing public safety, housing and development.
"Looking back, and probably with some of the turnover on council and some of the challenges we face today that maybe we didn’t face 10 years ago, the majority of folks on council felt that it was time to move on to a different direction," Wilcox said. "I meant what I said at the meeting — he’s made a contribution. Sometimes you just have a different point of view or think things should be handled a little bit differently."