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Gold Hill ends contract with public works chief

GOLD HILL — City officials have decided not to renew Public Works Director Bob Butler's employment contract when it expires at the end of the fiscal year.

Butler was quietly placed on 60-day administrative leave after a City Council workshop at the end of March. City Manager Elise Smurzynski said the city will pay the remainder of his contract, which ends June 30, then advertise the vacant position.

Butler was placed on leave following several months of City Council discussions about restructuring the Public Works Department. Council members had expressed concerns that Butler did not possess the official certifications to operate city facilities, which is required in the job description for a public works director.

Days after Butler was placed on leave, Councilwoman Judi Holdeman resigned. She said she left the council out of frustration over a lack of communication and council members "not being kind to one another.

"I left when they let Bob go," Holdeman said. "They're just so mean and nasty, and I just want to be where people treat each other kind."

Councilwoman Donna Silva declined to comment on the subject of Butler's leave or Holdeman's resignation, except to say, "Judi resigned, and Bob is on a 60-day leave, and that's all I can say right now."

Councilwoman Christine Alford said the council "basically just wanted to go back to having a public works director that has the required certificate."

For much of the past year, council members have focused attention on restructuring the Public Works Department and clarifying job descriptions of employees. Discussion ranged from unacceptable park maintenance to lack of communication between City Hall and public works management, to concerns about day-to-day operations at the water- and sewage-treatment plants.

Butler was hired in November after a three-year stint in Washington City, Utah, as a planning and public works project manager. He listed experience in government jobs, along with casino and automotive work, when he applied for work with the city.

From Butler's first day on the job, he adamantly refused to speak with local news media, even after city officials asked him to talk to reporters on public works issues.

A phone number used to contact Butler before his employment with the city was listed as disconnected on Friday.

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at buffypollock@juno.com.