Bethel City Council’s action memo request for post termination meeting with attorney fails

The action memorandum that would direct the Bethel City Clerk’s office or the City Attorney to reach out to a third party attorney – Michael Gatti, to request to meet with the council at the next regular city council meeting or a scheduled special budget meeting for a post-termination discussion of the employment with the last City Manager failed.

Back on April 23rd, 2019, Bethel City Council narrowly voted 4-3 to terminate the employment of now former City Manager Pete Williams.

According to Action Memo 19-31 submitted by council member Leif Albertson at the May 28th, 2019 regular meeting, the Alaska Public Entity Insurance (APEI) participated in Council’s May 14th, 2019 regular meeting where APEI Executive Director Barbara Thurston informed the Council of the City’s insurance policy requirement to confer with an attorney prior to the termination of an employee with one hour of the consultation paid for by APEI.

Having not consulted with an attorney in advance of the termination of the last City Manager, APEI extended the normal pre-termination consultation payment coverage to a post-termination consultation payment, and recommended the City consult an attorney on the recent termination of employment agreement with the last City Manager, continues the memo.

As this is a free service offered and encouraged by APEI, it is in the City’s best interest to take advantage of the free legal advice. Additionally, Gatti has been working with the City for over ten years so is familiar with general City operations and may already be somewhat familiar with the APEI policy. Whereas hiring someone else may require more time on the part of the attorney to become familiar with the situation and the organization, the memo concludes.

An amendment was made to strike out APEI from the memo and for the City to pay for the attorney services. The amendment failed, 3-3.

The lengthy discussion continued before voting. Currently there is no litigation against the City for wrongful termination.

AM 19-31 failed by a vote of 3-3 with Vice Mayor Thor Williams, and council members Carole Jung-Jordan and Fritz Charles voting nay. Voting in favor were council members Albertson, Mitchell Forbes, and Perry Barr.