McCleary public works director resigns after mayor questions loyalty


McCleary Public Works Director Nick Bird resigned his post on Dec. 31 rather than face potential termination.

McCleary Mayor Gary Dent had planned on some “management changes.” Public records turned over to The Vidette show Dent placed Bird on administrative leave on Nov. 20. A month later, Dent wrote a letter to Bird questioning his “loyalty.” And both parties agreed to a separation agreement on Dec. 31 giving Bird a severance valued at one month’s salary, six months worth of health care benefits and agreements that the city won’t protest Bird’s unemployment claim and Bird won’t sue the city.

Bird made his first appearance in two months before the McCleary City Council on Jan. 22.

“I wanted to pop in with the sole intention of saying, ‘Thank you,’” Bird told the Council during a public comment period.

“I had the opportunity to work with almost everybody in the room and, truly, there’s been lots of ups and lots of downs,” he added. “When you look at a job the council has to do, you’re doing a thankless job. But it’s absolutely fantastic what you guys are doing. I also want to thank the business community, as well, … an integral part of the community; and the citizens that I have had the opportunity to work with. The citizens truly are our foundation. I’ve had a variety of good situations and difficult situations, but every single one of those, I’ve had the opportunity to see what type of character this community has and it’s truly is a great character.”

Meantime, Dent says the city’s public works director position is still technically open. Former Public Works Director Nick Bird resigned his post at the end of December rather than deal with the mayor’s potential reorganization plans that likely would have cost him his job.He worked out a separation agreement with the city.

Dent says he hasn’t posted the public works director post, tapping Public Facilities head Todd Baun to the interim post.

“I have ideas for the position, but I’m not ready to talk about them yet,” Dent said

The vacancy comes at the same time that a police officer and a police clerk will lose their jobs, as of Jan. 31.

PUBLIC RECORDS

Records show that Bird had an unblemished record with accolades from the community in his personnel file and a history of training certificates and awards. Since being appointed in February of 2010, Bird had no discipline issues, the records show.

In early November, Bird had written a memo questioning the way the city was spending its budget and allocating costs from other funds. Bird is in charge of the city’s public works funds, including water, sewer and power and had a legal obligation to speak out if the city was using funds inappropriately.

Details of the memo have not yet been released and Dent has said he doesn’t want to talk about “inter-department battles.”

The Vidette has another public records request into the city to get more details.

“During the 2013 budget process, you failed to follow my directions regarding the preparation of the mayor’s budget,” Dent wrote to Bird on Dec. 16. “The utility department is under my direction and the preparation of the initial budget is delegated to me as mayor.”

For the 2013 budget, Dent was forced to rely less on transfers from the city’s power utility fund paid by ratepayers to its general fund. .

Bird had been with the city since February of 2010.

On Dec. 13, Bird was sent his first letter by the mayor calling for Bird to return for a “meeting to discuss your future employment with the city.”

Dent told Bird he was concerned with “your loyalty and ability to reflect and adhere to my management directives.”

Dent never goes into details.

“As a department head, you work for me as mayor and owe me a duty of loyalty,” Dent wrote. “Your job description is clear that you perform your duties subject to my direction and under my supervision. …

“Given the additional pressure, which my illness places on me, my staff and the city, it is essential that I have the loyalty and respect of my key administrative staff and have the ability to place my trust in them,” Dent said. “It is also essential that my key staff have a solid working relationship.”

Bird’s personnel record includes eight certifications of training completion and awards from a variety of public works agencies and organizations, a January 2012 letter from Dent praising Dent for “the wonderful job you did during the recent snow storm and events that followed,” along with a letter from Our Community Credit Union President Joe Robertson. Robertson praises the work of Bird for recent work done on new curbs and sidewalks outside their branch office in McCleary.

“Nick is a wonderful person to work with and very professional,” Robertson wrote. “He always had time for us when we had questions and he found ways to accommodate our needs and wishes.”

 

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