West Liberty City Manager's Contract Terminated - FOX 18 Quad Cities News and Weather

West Liberty City Manager's Contract Terminated

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Chris Ward Chris Ward

The search is on for a new city manager in West Liberty, Iowa, after city council voted 4 to 1 to terminate former City Manager Chris Ward's contract.

His lawyer says Ward is being used as a scapegoat for a problem that had nothing to do with him.

Chris Ward's contract was terminated without cause, meaning city council did not fire him for any sort of official misconduct.

But, Ward and his lawyer say city council clearly did have a reason to fire him in mind: They unfairly blame him for problems with the city's recycling program.

"He was given the parameters from city council from 2007 and then also he knew that city council had been apprised of problems just about every - at least once a year," Ward's attorney, William Tharp, said.

The biggest problem with the recycling program is contamination. Because of it, nearly all of the recyclables dropped off by residents in West Liberty have been ending up in the landfill.

When that came to light for the public a couple months ago, people who thought they had been recycling were upset.

Ward's attorney says that rather than explaining the situation to those residents -- that contamination was an inherent issue with the open air recycling system -- city council pointed fingers.

"Instead, they decided to place the blame on the city manager as if he was not doing the project correctly, which just wasn't the case," Tharp said.

But, Mayor Chad Thomas says the problems with the recycling program were just the start:

"Council just didn't feel like they were getting the answers that they needed or the response that was needed," Mayor Thomas said, "So that confidence went away that he was the person they could rely on to deal with this issue and fix it.

Ward, along with his attorney, presented his side of the story during an open special city council meeting last night, trying to defend the city manager's job, but ultimately only succeeding in defending his reputation.

"He had to protect his reputation so that people did not believe that there was misconduct," Tharp said, "Because with rumor and innuendo, it's made that people can think that he did do something wrong and future employers may think that he did something wrong."

"I'm sure he'll move on to somewhere else and be a perfectly fine city manager for them," said Thomas. "Just for our community right now with our council, it's not the right position."

Right now, West Liberty is operating without a city manager. No interim city manager has been appointed.

Mayor Thomas says the city has already sent out some requests for proposals to search firms to begin looking for a new city manager.

Ideally, he says, he'd like the city to have someone hired by January of next year.

"The sooner we can do it, the better," he said.

Because his contract was terminated without cause, Ward will receive a four-months pay severance package.

City council voted to renew his contract in July.

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