Former Winooski City Manager Josh Handverger was back in Chittenden County on Tuesday. He was fired two years ago by Winooski's city council over allegations of poor leadership and inappropriate conduct.
"The city of Winooski, not only failed but refused to follow the procedures prescribed by its charter for the removal of city manager," said John Franco, Handverger's lawyer.
Before the Vermont Supreme Court, Handverger and his attorney argued that in 2008 once the council voted to remove him from his position, he was allowed to contest his dismissal two days after. Handverger rejected that proposal and requested a hearing be held after 15 days-- the time allotted in the city's charter. The city proceeded with the original hearing and confirmed his termination. Winooski's attorney claims that the regulations in the charter, and the charter itself are not judicially reviewable, therefore the motion to terminate Handverger should stand.
"The legislative language is very clear, has not been argued to be ambiguous, and it precludes review," said Kaveh Shahi, the lawyer for the city of Winooski.
"He was run out of town on a rail," Franco said. "They sent him notice during Sunday night football that he was going to have a hearing during Jewish holiday less than 24 hours later. Under anybody's measure that is not due process of law. Maybe in Russia but not here."
Handverger's attorney also claims that Winooski owes more than $150,000 in back pay since the city failed to comply with proper procedures for removing him from office.
"Here we are asking for two years back pay. He had a contract that expired last Thursday night, and we're claiming that since he wasn't properly removed, he's entitled to the balance of that contract term," Franco said.
In court, he also claimed that Handverger's personal struggle has continued two years after the incident, including moving back in with his parents in Massachusetts.
"Mr. Handverger has not been able to find work. He's submitted over 400 resumes and right now he's unemployable. And in this age of Google, a potential employer just looks at what happened, and he's was run out of town in a couple of days," Franco said.
It is now up to the Vt. Supreme Court to decide whether or not the decision to remove Handverger as city manager is judicially reviewable under the charter of the city of Winooski. Handverger told us Tuesday that he does not want his job back as City Manager.
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