By Heather Mullinix
Former Crossville City Manager Jack Miller was returned to the position on an interim basis Friday afternoon by the Crossville City Council.
"I've served under five city managers," said Councilman Jesse Kerley, adding Miller was in the audience for the meeting. "I think he [Miller] did an excellent job for the city of Crossville. It's a shame that politics played the way that it did.
"I made the motion for his dismissal. I'm going to take the opportunity to correct history right now because I think I did a bad injustice to the taxpayers of the city of Crossville when I did that."
He moved to hire Miller for the interim position and pointed to the cash reserves built during his tenure, taking the city from $10 million in 2000 to almost $20 million when he left in 2008.
Kerley had moved to fire Miller from the post in January 2008 sating he was not "performing up to the desired standards of the city council" and was "failing to carry out and finalize council's direct orders," as well as having "expended city funds over his authorized limit."
The action came following authorization to pay a retiring city employee $12,385.50 in unused sick leave. The council voted that the funds should be returned and Miller be liable for repayment.
Kerley's motion was supported by Councilman Pete Souza.
"My second is not intended to be a prelude to whomever we select as the permanent person," Souza said. "I feel that since he's been here before, or Ted Meadows [former city manager], for that matter, this interim period will go better with one of those two people."
Crossville Mayor J.H. Graham III said the city had no time to train an interim manager due to projects on the council's agenda, including finalizing the 2013-'14 budget.
"We do need to have a fast start," Graham said.
But Graham disagreed with Kerley's statement the amount of cash reserves built as a qualification. Kerley said he was pointing out the conservative financial management provided.
Graham said the city needed 200 to 225 days of cash in reserve — between $7 million and $8 million.
"When you say that we had $19 million in the general fund, I feel like we've overcharged the taxpayers if we leave that money in the bank," Graham said.
Councilman George Marlow said the council decided how and when funds were spent.
He went on to say he'd talked with employees and department heads.
"They told me they enjoyed working with Dr. Miller and Ted Meadows, and that either one would do a good job," Marlow said. "For that reason, I would have a hard time voting against either man. But I do feel that it's important for us to get on with finding a full-time city manager. A ship needs a captain."
Councilman Danny Wyatt said whomever the city manager was needed to have a thick skin.
"I think we all on this council are going to have to follow the chain of command," Danny Wyatt said. "I think we've had some problems with that and we're all going to have to learn a lesson out of this deal."
City Manager Bruce Wyatt resigned on Wednesday, stating "I have decided that my approach to management is not conducive to the current political environment. I have struggled these last few weeks to accept the challenge of adjusting to this new environment; however, I find myself distracted and unable to focus on the responsibilities of city manager."
Souza said he may have played a part in Bruce Wyatt tendering his resignation.
"This has been a real challenging situation for Bruce, and I respect his decision," Souza said. "I did, in fact, put a lot of pressure...I didn't tell the city manager what to do, but by virtue of laying things on his desk that were his responsibility, I laid some real hard decisions on him. I should have spread that out better than I did and part of the responsibility of Bruce leaving is that I laid a lot of responsibility on him too quick."
Miller was hired with Kerley, Souza and Marlow voting in favor and Graham and Danny Wyatt voting against.
Kerley moved Miller take the position April 15 at a salary of $75,000, with full-time city employee benefits. The motion was supported by Souza.
Danny Wyatt asked for an opinion from City Attorney Kenneth Chadwell regarding possible legal issues with hiring Miller with litigation against the city.
Chadwell said, "It would be awkward, but I don't know of a legal reason why it can't happen."
Kerley asked Miller if he would accept the position, and he said he would.
The motion passed with Kerley, Souza and Marlow voting in favor and Graham and Danny Wyatt voting no.
The council discussed its search for a permanent city manager, with Souza stating Miller should collect résumés and pass them all on to the city. Graham said the city could not conduct a search for the position in time to hire a new city manager by its May 14 meeting.
"If the majority of council has made up their mind on who the next city manager is, then yes, I think we could take care of this by the second week in May," Graham said. "If the council wants a national search or request for résumés from the city manager's association, then I think a period of not less than six weeks would be appropriate."
Souza said he wanted to consider everyone and agreed with a six-week search.
Graham said he would review the qualifications and job description for the city manager position and present those to the council in May.
Miller previously served as city manager from January 2000 to January 2008.