Winooski Ousts City Manager Joshua Handverger - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Winooski Ousts City Manager Joshua Handverger

Joshua Handverger Joshua Handverger

Winooski, Vermont - September 22, 2008

It appears Joshua Handverger's days as City Manager of Winooski are over. The City Council passed a resolution 3-2, Monday night, placing him on administrative leave immediately, and terminating his employment as of Sept. 30. Handverger has until Sept. 28, to file a written request for a hearing to defend his position.

The resolution was introduced by councilor Erik Heikel after more than an hour and a half of public testimony, in which a number of city employees begged the council to fire Handverger.

The meeting began with all the city department heads filing into council chambers together, and being greeted by applause and verbal cheers. Winooski Development Director, J Ladd, read a statement on behalf of the department heads.

"{Handverger's} desire to have conflict with the staff and the public has reached a point where we realize that he will not change and there is no fixing this problem," read Ladd.

Individual employees also addressed the council. Some told tales of sexually inappropriate comments Handverger allegedly made. Several told the council they are embarrassed to tell people where they work because they are frequently asked, "What's going on over there?"

Of the 15 department heads in Winooski, four said they are actively seeking other jobs, and more said they would consider it if Handverger stayed on as manager.

"I think Josh is immature," said Superintendent of Parks, Grounds, Downtown and Facilities, Joseph Shaw. "I'm probably putting myself on the line, I'm at the point where I don't care. I'll be one of those people looking for a new job if things don't come out the way they should be."

Two residents did come to Handverger's defense. One woman told the council she knows the city has had financial issues long before Handverger was hired in October, 2007. Amy Booher asked the council to stick by its July decision to keep Handverger.

"I think that he's done not a perfect job but I think that he's done an okay job for the citizens of Winooski," said Booher.

Deputy Mayor Katherine Picard begged her fellow council members not to approve the resolution, saying it would cripple the council's authority to lead the city, and any future manager's ability to lead employees.

"We need to lead and if we allow this to happen it is the employees who are leading this community and that is not how it works," she said.

In the end, Picard and councilor Jodi Harrington voted against the resolution. Erik Heikel and Michael Mahoney voted to approve it. Mayor Michael O'Brien cast the tie-breaking vote in favor of the resolution. Picard also refused to sign the approved resolution.

Handverger's only comment for the night came after Ladd read the employee statement.

"I was quite surprised by the accusations in that letter," he said. "I think there are some false statements that at a later point I'd like to discuss with the department heads."

After the vote he gave no comment and referred requests to his attorney, John Franco. Franco said they plan to file a request for a pre-termination hearing. He pointed out that Handverger will have an opportunity to call witnesses at the hearing.

"This isn't over yet; he didn't get a chance to present his side of the story," said Franco.

Bianca Slota - WCAX News

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