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City manager fired after 4 months

The Phoenix City Council voted 3-2 Wednesday to fire City Manager Jamie McLeod after she'd been in the job for just four months.

During a 2½ hour meeting McLeod elected to make public, three department heads, including one that McLeod hired, voiced concerns about her leadership style and what Finance Director Janette Booth described as a "hostile work environment."

Booth said she felt harassed and nitpicked, which added stress while she was learning to put together the city budget for the first time. Without divulging specifics in a confidential human resources case in Booth's file, McLeod alluded to performance issues that included alleged payroll discrepancies.

Phoenix police Chief Derek Bowker said he's worked to insulate his staff from the administration office, and that there'd been times in the last four months in which he could've quit. He said McLeod had "micro-manager tendencies."

"I believe there's a toxic environment at City Hall," Bowker said.

McLeod said she was open to ways to improve her bedside manner, but from a fiduciary standpoint she said the city can't ignore real problems, particularly from the finance department.

"I think the city's been operating in crisis mode for a long time," McLeod said. "Part of that is because you guys keep firing your city managers, or give them heart attacks." 

In a staff report McLeod handed out before the meeting, she accused Mayor Chris Luz of overstepping authority that belonged to the council and using the city attorney as his personal counsel. She also said she believed personnel and other city records had been improperly destroyed and records retroactively changed to cover up errors and/or "misappropriations."

"During my first few weeks with the city, it became clear that the City of Phoenix had a serious lack of checks and balances, limited functional processes, chronic unaddressed human resources issues due to inconsistent administrative leadership, decision-making often made at the wrong level, ongoing potential violations with state ethics and public meetings laws, as well as inconsistent and sometimes inaccurate communication with stakeholders," McLeod said in her report.

Council president Bruce Sophie ultimately moved to remove McLeod effective immediately with full benefits, seconded by Terry Baker. Councilors Sarah Westover and Stuart Warren voted no.

Earlier in the evening, Westover moved to consider a mediation process to resolve conflicts, seconded by Warren. Sophie said conflict mediation takes more time than the two months when McLeod's probation period ends, and city attorney J. Ryan Kirchoff strongly advised against mediation, calling it "dangerous territory" in part because three whistle-blowers were at risk of potential retaliation.

McLeod said in her staff report that Kirchoff has a conflict of interest because he was bypassed for the position she held.

McLeod had been working since Nov. 7, 2016, coming on board after working for 11 years in planning positions in the Bay Area's Santa Clara Valley. Her contract was for $92,500 with reviews slated at six and 13 months.

— Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MTCrimeBeat.

Phoenix City Manager Jamie McLeod