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Hoke to get $74,779 severance

Former Medford Deputy City Manager Bill Hoke has been terminated effective Tuesday and will receive a $74,779 severance package.

Hoke was placed on paid leave Oct. 21 while the city and Hoke ironed out details of his termination agreement, signed by Hoke Nov. 22 and by City Manager Brian Sjothun Nov. 28.

"I'm an at-will employee," Hoke said Wednesday. "I was on my way to work, driving on Delta Waters, on the 21st of October, and I got a call that I was on administrative leave."

Hoke, who received a base salary of $145,911, received the call from Sjothun a day after his birthday, Oct. 20, when he turned 66.

Hoke, who said he's helped work on 38 business projects for the city since Aug. 11, 2014, has served various roles at the city since he started June 16, 2000. He has served as economic coordinator and has been the head of various departments when a director stepped down, including interim fire chief, planning director, human resources director and city manager.

"I'd like to get a little bit of credit," he said.

After he got the call from Sjothun, Hoke said he drove to his office to pick up some of his belongings, and then returned Sunday, Oct. 23, to collect more of his things under the supervision of a manager.

"I had a city employee there, and he helped me take my stuff to the car," Hoke said.

Asked about the reasons for his termination, Hoke said he is an at-will employee who got a call saying he was on paid leave.

He said there isn't any malfeasance or other scandal behind his termination.

"Do you really think that I would have done something like that?" he said.

He said he's not sure whether he'll seek another job, but indicated that he's open to that possibility.

Sjothun, who became city manager in August, said his decision to terminate Hoke came after several discussions with the former deputy city manager.

"Bill was like a lot of other department heads — he was at-will," Sjothun said.

Asked why he gave Hoke the news in a phone call, Sjothun said, "As a new city manager, it was probably a mistake."

Declining to go into details about his reasons, Sjothun said he and Hoke had personal talks on many occasions before the phone call.

Sjothun said he had kept the City Council fully informed of his impending decision to terminate Hoke.

"They need to be informed and have as much information, and have it well in advance," Sjothun said.

The previous city manager, Eric Swanson, was criticized by some council members for not informing them of important decisions, including the termination of key employees.

Sjothun said one of his goals as city manager is to foster more transparency and work more closely with the community and the council.

The city previously had two deputy city managers, and Sjothun said he thinks the city needs only one. He plans to hire someone next year to replace Hoke.

"As a new city manager, I wanted to go in a different direction with that position," he said.

Sjothun said he wants the city to work more closely with outside organizations, such as Southern Oregon Regional Economic Development, to help bring more business to the city. He said he sees the deputy city manager as someone who helps businesses walk through the planning and building processes in the city rather than someone who actively courts businesses.

Sjothun, who called Hoke a very talented person, said his job as city manager requires him to constantly evaluate the organization to meet the needs of local residents and to achieve the goals of the council.

"This is best for the city, best for the residents and best for Bill," he said.

— Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/reporterdm.

Bill Hoke