City Manager's Swift Departure Remains A Mystery

Do you think residents are owed an explanation?

Former Cleveland Heights City Manager Bob Downey's swift departure remains a mystery.

His , dated April 12, gave no indication for why he was resigning. And he left a day later, to hear officials' kind words about his service and he did not receive a proclamation.

Mayor Ed Kelley said he did not know of Downey's plans in advance.

Downey did not return calls or emails from Cleveland Heights Patch.

In contrast, when longtime Cleveland Heights Finance Director , he was given a proclamation, complete with a shamrock to honor his Irish heritage. Council members thanked him for his service. His wife was there, and he became overwhelmed with emotion.

He even played the bagpipes on his final day, concluding his 14 years with the city.

And he gave notice and an explanation.

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 Law Director John 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."

Gibbon did not share what each party felt he should have received. He said the discussions surrounding his contract occurred "throughout" the week of April 9.

Downey worked for the city for more than 30 years. He retired and then was rehired, his rehire effective in 2009, Gibbon said.

Council appointed Susanna Niermann O'Neil, community services director since 1989 and vice city manager, to take over the role at the regular council meeting Monday.

Kelley said the plans are to conduct a national search for Downey's replacement.

The Sun Press published an editorial Thursday, and wrote that residents should receive explanation, indicating that otherwise people are left to think the worst, referring to when Cleveland Heights-University Heights Superintendent Carlton Moody left quickly in 2003. Turned out he was forced out.

"By no means are we insinuating there are any such sinister stories involve Downey that would force City Council to remove him from office ... But this is precisely why either Downey or other city officials should tell the community exactly why he has chosen not to continue serving as city manager."

In addition, The Sun Press wrote that Downey's service should be honored.

What do you think? Do residents deserve an explanation? Should a celebration be organized for Downey? Tell us in the comments below and take our poll.

popeye April 21, 2012 at 12:06 PM
Council voted to not renew his contract .
Jake Crouse April 21, 2012 at 12:45 PM
Better check the city's funds. He may have dipped before he left.
michael turner April 21, 2012 at 01:58 PM
Sounds like the guy is getting out before he gets found out.
Michelle Simakis (Editor) April 21, 2012 at 02:44 PM
We're not suggesting he did anything wrong, just asking why his very quick resignation hasn't been explained or if you think residents are even entitled to that.
Fran Mentch April 21, 2012 at 02:52 PM
This botched transition does not serve our community or citizens well. It has also cost us money. Mr. Downey was paid all of his accrued sick and vacation when he “retired” 12/31/08; how much sick and vacation could he have accrued in 39 months? The nature of this transition perfectly reflects the nature of the Cleveland Heights city government’s relationship with its citizens. Anyone who has had any but the most superficial dealings with the city will attest that Cleveland Heights city hall has a culture of secretiveness. Citizens and public officials all have a responsibility to be civil to each other. Watch the council meetings. Interaction between city officials and citizens quickly moves from feigned cordiality to nastiness if citizens press in any way. Frequently citizens are told “this is not the place for discussion”. But if city officials are ever in the position of proving citizen input, they always point to “citizen participation at city council meetings”. While we were working to preserve Oakwood as a Metropark, we had a lot of dealings with the city of South Euclid. They were consistently more communicative and transparent in their dealings with us than the city of Cleveland Heights. Although we agreed on little, South Euclid’s Community Relations Director, Keith Benjamin, and Law Director Michael Lograsso clearly respect the public records request process and citizens’ rights. Sadly, I have not had that same experience with my own city
Ted Dick April 21, 2012 at 05:38 PM
I have not dealt nor am I looking forward to dealing with Cleveland Heights City Hall at the level of Fran Mentch. I am hopeful though that if this rapid dismissl is for the purpose of fiscal cover-up rather than personal privacy that sunshine will prevail.
Frances H. Blount April 21, 2012 at 09:19 PM
I think the community should know the reason for the abrupt departure. After all, he retired and was REHIRED, so if he came back he obviously liked the job. Why would he suddenly resign one day and leave the next?
Garry Kanter April 22, 2012 at 01:43 PM
Good point about the $75K.
Christine Johnson April 22, 2012 at 08:32 PM
For a woman who gave a City Council Meeting presentation dissing the citizens who felt more secure in their own home by installing decorative wrought iron doors-you are freaking me out. Can you climb under a rock for the next couple years?
Nancy Dietrich April 22, 2012 at 11:22 PM
Although I retired over two years ago and thus do not know what went on behind closed doors (as it should be -- it's a personnel matter) on the night of Bob Downey's resignation, I want to tell you that. having spent 12 years on City Council with Bob as City Manager, he is the last person I would ever connect with wrongdoing. He is one of the most upright people I know.
Richard Hollis April 23, 2012 at 09:59 PM
I do not feel that it is Bob Downey who owes an explanation of why he resigned so suddenly and apparently unexpectantly. I do, however, feel that some of the members of council owe us an explanation. I would be very surprised if not shocked if Bob coiuld be connected to any wrongdoing.


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