City Manager Bob Francis resigned Monday night, referring to unspecified “difficulty” with Mayor Arthur Babitz and members of the city council, all of whom said they were surprised by the announcement, which came near the end of the regular City Council meeting.
Francis cited a June 7 meeting with council member Laurent Picard in which Picard recommended strongly that Francis look for other work and resign. Francis used his standing report segment of Monday's meeting to announce he will resign effective July 8.
Francis declined comment after the meeting but scheduled a Tuesday morning appointment with a reporter.
On his meeting with Picard, Francis told council, "Laurent was very honest. His concern was that they wanted to terminate me and that I should find work very quickly." He said others with the city also suggested he seek other employment. "I appreciate their honesty, but I also heard from others that the mayor was inclined and supportive of the idea that it is time to terminate me.
"It is very difficult to work under these conditions. I've been upset by it, the staff has been upset, and the inner office has been upset," Francis said. "Because of that, the best alternative is for me to resign ... so I can seek employment where I am appreciated and my potential is recognized.”
Babitz declined to comment on Francis’ announcement, stating that it is now a pending personnel matter for the city.
Council Member Mark Zanmiller and others stated that the city should offer to mediate with Francis and avoid resignation, an option Babitz said he is open to.
Babitz said Francis' announcement was the first he had heard of his intention to resign.
Planning Director Cindy Walbridge presented a letter of support for Francis signed by herself and Fire Chief Devon Wells, Public Works Director Mark Lago and Police Chief Neal Holste.
Wells called Francis “an amazing mentor to me,” in an emotional statement to the council, adding that “no public employee should be treated the way Bob Francis has been treated.”
Picard said in the meeting: "Let me clarify exactly what I said in the meeting (with Francis). I said that there was a growing consensus on council that he wasn't the right man for the job anymore. I did not say it was spearheaded by the mayor and I did not say he ought to find a job quickly. I said he ought to start looking for another job. I did this because of conversations I had that substantiated my concerns in what I said in that meeting.”