Another Danville City Commission meeting and another executive session regarding personnel ended without major action Monday night.
The chambers at city hall were packed with residents and staff members in anticipation of potential action regarding the future of City Manager Paul Stansbury, whose job has been speculated to be in jeopardy.
It is unclear if Stansbury was the topic of discussion for Monday’s executive session. The exception to the state open meetings law given for the closed-door session was discussion that could lead to firing or discipline of an employee.
Ephraim Helton, whom Stansbury has retained as his attorney, was on hand and announced his wishes to be present for any discussion of the city manager’s employment as the commission retired to a closed session.
It was the third time in two months and the second time in April that the commission has gone behind closed doors to potentially take termination or disciplinary action. As with previous closed sessions, those on the commission remained tight lipped about the specific purpose, but there were no walk-outs this time after the hour-long session.
Commissioners Kevin Caudill and J.H. Atkins left an executive session earlier this month after voting against convening one. On Monday, the two commissioners again voted against entering executive session.
Although Caudill would not discuss why he left the last meeting, he noted that he did not have the same level of concern following Monday night. Caudill wouldn’t discuss Stansbury’s job security.
Stansbury himself said he was not actually called into the room to meet with commission members during the closed session and only acknowledged that he had retained Helton as representation.
“I’m looking at the future and continuing to work hard to meet the needs of the commission and the citizens,” Stansbury said. “I’m putting my full focus on the budget process at this time.”
Helton said today he has been retained by Stansbury with the purpose of maintaining his position as city manager. Helton said there currently is no pending litigation between Stansbury and the city and declined to comment on whether any official or unofficial steps have been taken to either fire Stansbury or ask for his resignation.
“In talking with people in the community, including business people and leaders of various civic organizations, it is clear that people think Paul is doing a wonderful job,” Helton said. “I am dismayed to see a person become a target who has done the kind of job Paul has for our city and who is held in such high esteem.”
Helton said he was allowed into Monday’s executive session to make a brief statement in which he informed them of Stansbury’s desire to stay on with the city.
If the commission were to vote on a resolution to terminate Stansbury, he would be entitled to a public hearing within 30 days. Helton said he told the commission he will ask for a hearing if a vote is taken, during which he would cross examine those in favor of Stansbury’s dismissal and call witnesses to vouch for the quality of his work and refute any claims questioning his job performance.
“I am prepared to bring forward testimony substantiating the fact that Paul has done an exemplary job as city manager,” Helton said. “I also reminded the commission that litigation is not a fun process.”
Helton said he also assured the commission that Stansbury would be capable of putting aside any efforts to remove him.
Under Stansbury’s employment agreement with the city, if he is dismissed without cause, he would be entitled to receive 26 weeks of pay at 80 percent of his current wage level, in addition to benefits, and the city would not contest any unemployment claims.
During the portion of the meeting reserved for public comment, city residents, including Wilma Brown, spoke in defense of Stansbury. Brown drew applause after decrying what she said are efforts by Mayor Bernie Hunstad and others to build a case against the city manager since taking office instead of setting priorities for city staff to work toward. She also questioned the number of executive sessions called during the first four months of the year.
Hunstad did not address Stansbury’s status or the nature of the discussions that took place behind closed doors. However, he said the budget process the city currently is involved in is the time to set the city’s priorities. Hunstad said the executive sessions were all called for specific and appropriate purposes and were not being abused by the commission.
The City Commission did act on the other issue given as a reason for going into executive session by hiring another police officer. The hiring will bring the department to its full staffing level of 33 officers once all have gone through training.
In other business, the commission tentatively set May 18 to interview consulting firms for the water treatment system project.
Of 11 firms that responded to the city’s request for qualifications, the top four, and possibly five, will be asked to give presentations and answer questions.
The top five firms in descending order based on their ranking by a committee are GRW Engineers, Bell Engineering, HDR/Quest, Tetra Tech and CDP Engineers.
Representatives from the Kentucky League of Cities also gave a summary of the responses to a survey on city government as it relates to the budget process.
Tad Long from KLC said several priorities that emerged include concerns about public safety, infrastructure, controlling spending, job creation and road condition.
Long said it was clear from the responses that residents want the city to focus on providing basic city services. KLC also recommended improved communication about how the city is addressing certain areas.
The commission also directed city attorney Vince Pennington to draft an ordinance including changes to a current zoning classification.
The changes, prepared by a Planning and Zoning committee, would reclassify Neighborhood Center Commercial as Neighborhood Center Residential and Commercial and classify areas formerly zoned R-3 as Neighborhood Conservation Classification. Any commercial property in these districts, which includes areas around Broadway downtown, would be grandfathered in and could continue to operate as businesses.