More than 200 Winooski residents have signed a petition calling for the immediate termination of City Manager Joshua Handverger. Residents presented their petition to the City Council on Monday night.
Winooski went through two weeks of semi-judicial hearings after Handverger tried to have Police Chief Steve McQueen fired, and the residents behind the petition say it greatly damaged their city.
The petition alleges Handverger, "demonstrated his lack of managerial abilities with his handling of the investigation of Police Chief Steve McQueen and other city issues."
"Heads of departments are not allowed to talk to the mayor and city council, that they go to him," said Paul Herbert, one of the petition's main sponsors. "This is freedom of speech, this is not a communist country."
The petition also demands a full accounting of all financial costs incurred during the McQueen hearings.
Handverger also has a number of supporters. In fact, the majority of people who testified before the City Council Monday night spoke out in favor of keeping Handverger on as manager.
"I want to personally thank Josh for what he's done," said Ann Atkins. "I think he's opened the eyes of many residents here in Winooski to things that we didn't necessarily know."
The City Council is running out of time if it wants to get rid of Handverger. Under his contract it has until Oct. 1, to fire him without cause. After that date it needs to prove "just cause" and give 60 days notice prior to termination.
As for Handverger, he says does not intend to step down before the end of his contract, which is on Oct. 1, 2010.
"No plans to resign," he said after Monday's meeting. "The city of Winooski is great. The council's been great. I've got unbelievable department heads, unbelievable community support."
Handverger describes the petition against him as democracy in action, and says he understands why residents are upset. If given the chance though, he says he would do everything the same way over again, and that its up to the council to decide if he is ultimately responsible for the damage done to Winooski's reputation during the McQueen hearings.
The council did go into executive session after the meeting. Mayor Mike O'Brien did not want to comment on the petition before the executive session, saying he had not discussed it with members of the council yet.
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