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Fired city manager gets $80,000

Medford’s ousted city manager Eric Swanson will get $80,000 for his severance package, accrued pay and other benefits.

The City Council on Thursday voted 6-2 to fire Swanson, effective immediately, because members thought Swanson was trying to manage them rather than the council managing him.

Mayor Gary Wheeler appointed Deputy City Manager Chris Reising as interim city manager until 5 p.m. today, after which Deputy City Manager Bill Hoke will become city manager pro tem while the city searches for a replacement. Hoke wasn't at work Thursday when the mayor had to immediately name a replacement.

Swanson was hired in summer 2012 at an annual salary of $145,008. His salary was never raised during his almost three years in office, though he did get an increase in his retirement account and his vehicle allowance.

According to the city Human Resources Department, Swanson will get a five-month severance package that totals $60,420, though 25 percent will be taken off the top in taxes.

He will get back pay and accrued vacation time totaling $19,218. In addition, he will get a $250 auto allowance and $250 for his phone allowance.

Councilor Kevin Stine said the council will not be making further statements about Swanson’s firing and has agreed to respect a cooling-off period.

In his first performance review in 2013, Swanson received generally favorable comments from the council.

Swanson’s difficulties with the council started when he got behind a failed effort that looked at consolidating Medford Fire-Rescue with Jackson County Fire District 3.

During the midst of the consolidation discussions, Swanson fired former Fire Chief Dave Bierwiler, a decision that upset some councilors.

After Bierwiler left, Doug Detling, former human resources director, left, replaced by Mike Snyder. Then, former acting chief of Medford Fire-Rescue Gordon Sletmoe announced he was leaving. With three high-profile departures in a year, many councilors expressed concern about the regime changes since Swanson took his job.

On Thursday, some councilors referenced previous executive sessions held to discuss issues with Swanson’s job performance. Many of the issues were never aired publically.

In a job review of Swanson obtained last year by the Mail Tribune, councilors said Swanson failed to repair damaged relations with community organizations, including the Chamber of Medford/Jackson County.

The nature of the strained relationship with the chamber wasn't spelled out until recently.

Just two weeks ago, the council had a heated discussion over Travel Medford, which received $750,000 annually in city lodging taxes.

The council demanded more accountability and more separation between Travel Medford and the chamber. Many council members cited the political nature of the chamber as one of the main reasons for the call for separation.

Councilors in May expressed frustration over what Councilor Dick Gordon described as a battle of wills between Swanson and the chamber over Travel Medford, which provides marketing support for the city's travel industry and receives about $750,000 annually from a 25 percent share of the lodging taxes levied by the city.

On Thursday, Gordon said he'd had confrontations with Swanson in the past and had found him difficult to work with. Gordon made the motion to fire Swanson.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com. Follow on Twitter at @reporterdm.