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May 15, 2013

Council votes to terminate Alexander’s contract

GREENVILLE — The Greenville City Council voted Tuesday to terminate the contract of City Manager Steven Alexander.

The decision followed an emotional meeting in which dozens of people spoke out, many of whom asked the Council to keep Alexander.

Steve Ramsey presented the Council with a petition which he said had the names of 400 people who supported Alexander.

“The most important person in the city and you want to fire him. That is astonishing,” Ramsey said, while also presented a list of accomplishments under Alexander’s six year tenure. “There are five pages of what he has accomplished.”

Not everyone was in favor of keeping Alexander. Bobby Stovall was among those who urged the Council to terminate the contract, noting that Alexander still has an adversarial relationship with L-3.

“They don’t trust him and they can’t deal with him. It has been a bad situation,” Stovall said, adding that a previous Council was presented with a petition to fire Alexander during the height of the dispute with the defense contractor. “And that Council snubbed their nose at it.”

The Council’s decision came after 90 minutes of pleas offered by both sides and another 90 minutes of meeting in executive session at the end of Tuesday night’s regular agenda.

Alexander made a brief statement after the vote, stating he disagreed with the decision, but explaining he served at the will of the Council.

“I’ve had the privilege and the honor to serve as city manager of Greenville for the past six years,” Alexander said, asking the Council to retain the current staff. “Do what you can to keep these folks. Listen to them because they are good at what they do.”

Alexander also asked the crowd which had filled the hallways of the Municipal Building to help keep the Council stay focused on efforts to improve the community.

“This Council will need you more than they’ve ever needed you before,” Alexander said. “Demand excellence.”

Mayor Steve Reid said the Council will have to meet soon in a special session to name an interim city manager.

Reid said the termination of Alexander’s contract will also involve a payout, but did not specify an amount, referring questions to Director of Human Resources Barry Robinson, who was not immediately available for comment Tuesday night.

Alexander, who previously served as the city manager of Copperas Cove, was hired for the position on June 12, 2007. But the past two years his tenure was marked with an ongoing dispute with L-3.

The City of Greenville spent more than $1 million defending itself from two lawsuits filed by L-3 concerning the proposed replat of Majors Field, the City Greenville Municipal Airport, amid allegations Alexander was among city officials attempting to find a way to make the property the defense contractor leases from the city taxable.

A total of 30 people spoke Tuesday in favor of keeping Alexander, including Sally Bird who said Alexander was being made to pay for the decisions of the previous city council.

“The man is being crucified for following the orders of his many bosses,” Bird said.

Former Council member Hattie Tennison also indicated Alexander was acting on the will of the council.

“He has been abused because he followed our instructions,” Tennison said. “He has suffered for it and I don’t think its fair.”

But Duane May also criticized Alexander for not paying enough attention to the city’s infrastructure.

“I think it is time to cut bait and lets start with a clean sheet of paper,” May said.

The Council voted in April 2012 to amend Alexander’s employment agreement, to where it would take five members of the Council, rather than four, to terminate the contract.

Alexander’s contract was addressed during several Council meetings in recent months, in executive session under Section 551.074 of the Local Government Code, which allows the committee “to deliberate the appointment, employment, evaluation, reassignment, duties, discipline, or dismissal of a public officer or employee; or to hear a complaint or charge against an officer or employee” although no action was taken.

An executive session item included under Tuesday’s agenda called for the Council to discuss exercising the city’s contractual rights under the terms of Alexander’s contract and also to discuss exercising the Council’s powers under Section 20 of the Greenville City Charter to suspend or remove the City Manager.

Of the 30 amendments approved by voters Saturday, Proposition 6 amended Section 20 of the City Charter to reflect the Council’s power to appoint and/or remove by majority the City Manager.

Following the executive session, Council member Jeff Dailey made a statement indicating that he had given serious consideration to Alexander’s contract and had even prayed on the issue.

“After doing all those things, the negatives outweighed the positives,” Dailey said. “I believe Steve is an honorable man and he’s a good man, but I don’t believe he is the right person to be city manager of Greenville.”

Council member Dan Perkins disagreed, also arguing that the citizens should have had more notice of the Council’s intent.

“Steve Alexander is the best of the three city managers I’ve worked with,” Perkins said, adding Alexander’s performance on the job was excellent. “He is in danger of losing his job because of the L-3 issue.”

The Council’s vote was 5-2 in favor of terminating the contract, with Perkins and Velma Del Bosque-Hobdy voting against.

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