City Council will discuss Bob Francis’ resignation July 3

Special meeting open to the public, comments allowed

A special meeting of Hood River City Council is scheduled for Wednesday at 6 p.m. The lone item on the agenda is to discuss how to respond to City Manager Bob Francis’ June 24 resignation.

Francis said he will attend the meeting.

The published agenda states that the council will address Francis’ June 24 letter of resignation, followed by an executive session.

Mayor Arthur Babitz said there will be time for public comment, and he added that “I have no expectation or intent to have an executive session, but we need to (place it on the agenda) in case it’s needed.”

Babitz said the meeting had to be scheduled Wednesday because two council members, along with city attorney Dan Kearns, were unable to meet earlier in the week.

Francis announced his resignation near the end of the June 24 meeting, an action that Babitz and all members of the City Council who were present said took them by surprise.

Francis’ resignation letter said, in part, “Over the past 10 years, I have dedicated myself to the betterment of the City of Hood River. I truly enjoy my job as city manager.

“A few weeks ago, I have been told by Councilor (Laurent) Picard that ‘there is a consensus of council and the mayor who want you gone and my best advice to you is to find another job, quickly. Also you should work hard until then and leave under good terms, but if you have to make this a bad situation, then we will make it bad for you.’

“Over the past weeks, I have also been told by other councilors that the mayor had petitioned them for my termination.

“Working under these conditions has taken a toll on me and my staff emotionally and mentally to the point that I feel it is in the best interest of the City for me to resign effective July 8, 2013, so I may find an employer who realizes my potential and will treat me accordingly.

“The goal of any city manager is to leave the city in better shape than you found it. I think my accomplishments speak for me in that I have achieved that goal.”

In a follow-up interview, Francis said he has had enough of what he calls repeated “micromanaging” by Babitz.

Babitz said Francis’ announcement was the first he had heard of his intention to resign.

(Picard said June 24 that he had urged Francis to look for other work but never suggested Babitz had “spearheaded” any effort to get rid of Francis.)

Francis referred in Monday’s meeting to a development over Memorial Day weekend in which he learned while he was out of town for the holiday that Babitz had contacted fire department personnel without notifying either himself or Fire Chief Devon Wells.

“He did not follow the correct process that we have in the city, and that’s wrong. The result was the mayor got mad at me when I told him he was wrong,” Francis said.

Babitz would not comment on Francis’ assertion, and said he would not make general comments, stating that it is a personnel matter.

He reiterated that position Thursday but said he may release a statement before Wednesday’s meeting, or make it at the start of the meeting.

Planning Director Cindy Walbridge presented a letter of support for Francis signed by herself and Wells, Public Works Director Mark Lago and Police Chief Neal Holste.

“Bob is the best city manager any of us has had the pleasure to work with in our careers, and his interest and commitment for the city of Hood River is without question,” the letter stated.

It begins by saying. “We are aware that there is a discussion at the Council level to terminate Bog Francis, though nothing has been substantiated. As your City department heads we would like to go on record to say that Bob has been a good manager for his staff and for the city as a whole. He is the hardest-working city manager we have worked with. He comes in early; he attends after-hours meetings many nights each week all for the good of the city.

“Though we are not sure what the council’s issues are with Bob, they could have likely been addressed through the evaluative process. Without that, how can supervisors expect a particular quality or kind of work from an employee? Before any action is taken Bob deserves to be evaluated and given time to address the council issues.”

(Francis has not received a formal job evaluation in five years, according to both Francis and Babitz. Babitz said he is not sure why that is the case.)

Francis was hired in January 2004 and has served as Rotary president and on the boards of United Way and the Tsuruta Sister City Program, and is a board member of Oregon City Managers Association.

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