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Talent, city manager agree to part ways

A severance agreement between the city of Talent and City Manager Sandra Spelliscy was approved by City Council in a special meeting Friday afternoon.

“The council majority has determined it wanted a change, and this is its right. I’ve been privileged to serve the residents of Talent for two and a half years, and to work with an incredibly professional and dedicated staff,” Spelliscy wrote in a statement released following the meeting.

“Change is always difficult, even more so now as the city faces twin crises of the Almeda fire and the pandemic. My concern is that this change comes at a time when stability and institutional memory are crucial needs for the city, and I hope that it will be able to weather the inevitable disruptions ahead,” the statement continued.

The parties “have determined the need to sever the employment relationship,” the agreement states. When contacted, Spelliscy declined to elaborate on the determination.

Originally the item was to come up at the Dec. 16 council meeting, but it was moved up at the request of representatives for the city manager, said Council President Emily Berlant, who presided in the absence of Mayor Darby Ayers-Flood. Councilors voted unanimously to approve the agreement.

In a prepared statement, Ayers-Flood wrote that Spelliscy’s budgetary expertise has left Talent in an enviable financial position for a small town, despite past and present financial challenges.

“City Manager Spelliscy’s dedication to our community shone during the recent Almeda fire. Sandy has always worked hard to manage the daily operations of Talent, but never harder than in the days following the fire,” Ayers-Flood said. “We will be forever grateful for her dedication and good work during this time.”

Spelliscy will receive a one-time payment of $48,133, which equals five months of base salary. She will also get a payment to cover five months of health and dental care premiums at $1,527 per month. The city will not contest any claim for unemployment benefits. Spelliscy will not be entitled to any other compensation or benefit not specified in the agreement.

Under the agreement the city is to provide “a positive and truthful reference letter” and to participate in “a joint, positive public event thanking the city manager for her services.”

In accepting the consideration Spelliscy agrees to release the city and its representatives from future actions including expenses, damages, losses and claims. She also agrees not to pursue litigation against the city.

Spelliscy’s last day of employment will be Jan. 4. The agreement gives Spelliscy a 21-day reconsideration period from date of signature, but that can be waived to an eight-day period.

Under terms of the agreement, nothing will be construed as an admission of liability by either party.

Spelliscy became interim city manager June 4, 2018. Her regular employment began in September of that year.

In September 2018 Spelliscy became executive director of the Talent Urban Renewal Agency, holding dual appointments as did previous city manager Tom Corrigan. Spelliscy in September 2019 raised concerns about possible legal and financial irregularities, lack of agreements between the two entities and impact of TURA work on her city responsibilities.

Spelliscy resigned as TURA executive director in April when the board named Portland-area development specialist Jon Legarza to the position to pursue the Gateway Project.

Other city officials have left recently or have submitted resignations.

Councilors Stephine Dolan and Daria Land both announced their resignations later this month at the Dec. 2 meeting. Both cited impacts from the Almeda fires as among factor for their resignations.

In August police Chief Tim Doney announced his resignation, which became effective Sept. 10. Lt. Jennifer Snook, a 20-year employee with the police department, was named interim chief. She was subsequently confirmed as permanent chief.

City Recorder Fray Crease resigned effective Dec. 4. Crease had assumed the position in September of this year.

In 2018, Corrigan reached an agreement with the city of Talent’s insurer that resulted in a “substantial” payment, Corrigan’s attorney reported. Attorney Ryan Vanderhoof had been negotiating with the city, which stated it wanted to reach a settlement with Corrigan to prevent any future claims. Corrigan had served as manager since 2012.

In November 2011 the city reached a $100,000 settlement with former city manager Jay Henry, who was terminated by the council in June of that year. Henry had filed a tort claim against the city to preserve his rights to sue over what he claimed was wrongful termination.

Reach Ashland freelance writer Tony Boom at tboomwriter@gmail.com.

Photo courtesy cityoftalent.org