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UPDATED: Bainbridge city manager fired, scuffle breaks out

March 14th, 2012 by tristan baurick

Update: Click here for my expanded coverage of the meeting.

In a surprise move, the City Council decided to immediately fire City Manager Brenda Bauer, sending her home in the middle of Wednesday night’s council meeting.

Deputy City Manager Morgan Smith was appointed acting city manager. The council estimates it may take six months before a new city manager is hired.

The city had decided in late January to terminate Bauer’s contract, but had planned to keep her on for a few months while the council looked for her replacement.

Bauer’s sudden exit means she’ll get a bigger payout from the city. Her severance package had included $75,000 plus six months worth of benefits. Having her leave before the 90-day transition period ends means she’ll get an additional $37,500.

“The council felt this was in the best interest of the city,” Councilman David Ward said when asked about the decision to have Bauer leave early. He and other council members declined to say anything more specific.

Ward made the motion for Bauer’s immediate firing. Council members Sarah Blossom, Debbi Lester and Steve Bonkowski supported the motion. Council members Anne Blair, Kirsten Hytopoulos and Bob Scales voted against.

Hytopoulos said the move to fire Bauer was “shocking and embarrassing.” She added that the council has become “negative, paranoid and broken.”

A scuffle broke out in the council chamber shortly after the vote was taken. Former city council candidate Robert Dashiell exchanged angry words with former councilman Bill Knobloch over Bauer’s firing. Dashiell said Knobloch pushed his chin with a finger and that he responded with a shove. Knobloch said Dashiell did more than shove him, but would not say more. Police were called but no arrests were made.

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25 Responses to “UPDATED: Bainbridge city manager fired, scuffle breaks out”

  1. Jon Quitslund Says:

    Why now? Why such a quick exit? Morgan Smith’s duties as acting city manager begin on Friday. I don’t question her competence, but as one of the dissenting Council members said, “You’re asking a half-time employee to do one and a half jobs.”

    There were questions about what will be expected of Morgan Smith. And what will be expected of an Interim City Manager, who may be stuck in the job for nine months or more (if he or she gets along with the Council members who matter)?

    The move to remove Brenda Bauer should not have been made with blitzkrieg speed. Four votes may carry the day, but one of those four should have had the good sense to say, “Without another vote this won’t look legitimate.” Sometimes you need to go ahead with four votes, but not in an action such as this.

  2. James M. Olsen Says:

    I hope the creative types in LA are watching BI for more scenes in the soon-to-air blockbuster: Twilight Zone on Bainridge. Also, didn’t Rob Dashiell run for Council last November? My, oh, my.

  3. haugie Says:

    Knoblauch- the puppetmaster steps out from behind the curtain.

  4. binewbie Says:

    They should have appointed Smith interim City Manager the day they gave Bauer the much deserved boot. The day she was fired they should have escorted her out of city hall with her personal items. Never made sense to have an unhappy lame duck.

  5. BakerHillGuy Says:

    Remember when it was said “If we just do away with the elected Mayor everything will be peaches and cream”. Seems like a lot of sour cream has risen to the top. I think when we lost Mayor Darlene we lost our adult supervision.

  6. Stone Says:

    I agree with binewbie. The moment leaders decide to terminate an employee, that employee would be escorted from the building, no matter what remains on their to-do list.

    That said, the council members must have learned about something pretty disturbing in their executive session to make a majority change their minds and take action. As usual, Quitslund is wrong, but he must be forgiven if he’s never had any hire/fire responsibility.

    Scales is a pompous crybaby and Hytopolous cares way too much about plastic bags. They can’t stand the fact that they are in the minority. Thank goodness Dashiell was rejected at the polls. He’s always been a bully… and now he’s acting like a common street thug.

  7. Ducttapeo1 Says:

    Larry Coppola for City Manager. Sell tickets to each council meeting, sign contract with a wrestling entertainment company. Problems solved!

  8. Anne Culbyter Says:

    I think all those council meetings that Mr. Dashiell has attended finally got to him and he snapped.

  9. Anne Culbyter Says:

    James M. Olsen says, “…didn’t Rob Dashiell run for council last November? My, oh, my.” Didn’t Mr. Olsen run for some kind of office last November? And wasn’t he defeated by record breaking margins? My, oh, my.

  10. Islander Says:

    The city government has become a joke. I will not be voting again for anyone.

  11. Tom Says:

    we have all the ingredients for winning reality tv show…then we’ll have tons more money to hire consultants and search firms

  12. Timber Says:

    Round about the couldron go:
    In the poisones entrails throw.
    Toad,that under cold stone
    Days and nights has thirty-one
    Sweated venom sleeping got,
    Boil thou first in the charmed pot.
    Double,double toil and trouble;
    Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

    Fillet of a fenny snake,
    In the cauldron boil and bake;
    Eye of newt and toe of frog,
    Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
    Adder’s fork and blindworm’s sting,
    Lizard’s leg and howlet’s wing.
    For charm of powerful trouble,
    Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.
    Double,double toil and trouble;
    Fire burn and couldron bubble.

    Scale of dragon,tooth of wolf,
    Witch’s mummy, maw and gulf
    Of the ravin’d salt-sea shark,
    Root of hemlock digg’d in the dark,
    Liver of blaspheming Jew;
    Gall of goat; andslips of yew
    silver’d in the moon’s eclipse;
    Nose of Turk, and Tartar’s lips;
    Finger of birth-strangled babe
    Ditch-deliver’d by the drab,-
    Make the gruel thick and slab:
    Add thereto a tiger’s chaudron,
    For ingrediants of our cauldron.
    Double,double toil and trouble,
    Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

    Witches Chant from Macbeth by William Shakespeare

  13. Del Says:

    Will someone explain what it is specifically that the three new councilors (plus Lester) have against Brenda Bauer? All I have ever heard was that she did not have the right “vision” for Bainnbridge and similarly vague stuff like that. What exactly did she do that is grounds for dismissal?

  14. OldTimer but not old Says:

    In 1991 some of the islanders decideded to have the City of Winslow annex the rest of the island becoming the City of Bainbridge Island so that we could control our own destiny… Prior to that rural areas of the island were managed by Kitsap County along with Kitsap County Sheriff in lieu of the City of BI Police Dept…. Well it doesn’t take genius to understand that the management of the City and the Police Dept. has become a complete embarrassment! Maybe time to rethink going back to the county… Home Rule? I don’t think so…

  15. Shannon Evans Says:

    James Olsen writes, “Also, didn’t Rob Dashiell run for Council last November? My, oh, my.”

    Kind of like Olsen ran for legislature and lost by a really large embarrassing margin…and like Olsen ran for Sewer Commission Post 2 Position 2 and lost by a large (and again)embarrassing margin.

    Folks who live in glass houses (like Olsen) should be really careful who they call “Louse”…especially when those “BI Louse” are registered voters.

    Character Counts on Bainbridge Island. Olsen, like Dashiell, the voters of our community took measure of your character and found it lacking in more than just civility. Now when do we get to vote y’all completely off the island?

    RC – Just Sayin’!

  16. BIvoter Says:

    As taxpayers we are owed a more complete set of facts as to the reason why the council would remove Ms. Bauer with ‘blitzkrieg speed’ thereby costing the taxpayers more money in the long run.
    I find it interesting that council persons Lester, Blossom, Ward and Bonkowski all voted together but am not surprised as are these not the same lot that took it upon themselves to seek advise from Inslee’s firm behind the backs of the other council members?
    By the way…who finally paid for that little adventure? Where is the transparency?
    Are we then to assume that this interim person will be bowing whims of these four council persons?
    Who, exactly, is in control of this island? Clearly, it is not the taxpaying citizens.
    I am all for revoking our status as a city and reverting back to the county and getting rid of this dysfunctional council and let the county handle the responsibilities. City hall would make a great museum!!!

  17. dj Says:

    Incredible!. I no longer have a need to watch TV to get my dose of drama. That was embarassing to watch. FWIW, I think the government’s involvement in the bag ban is over-reaching. Where do we stop….disposable diapers, areosol cans, non-fuel efficient vehicles (every truck and SUV on the island)? Plastic bags are far from the being one of biggest hazards to our environment…but BIslanders will look away if it impacts their convenience. Government (local) should strictly be for road maintenance and safety issues. Debbie Lester and her clan of 3 (one of which just appears to be a puppet) have nothing but their own interests in mind. The fact that we taxpayers put a few $ in the pockets of those clowns for that show last night should be bothersome to all. Heck, I’d vote for James Olson any day of the week…gotta give a guy credit for being honest and up front in his beliefs.

  18. Barry Peters Says:

    Jon Quitslund (who was there, as I was) asks all the right questions in his post at the top of these comments.

    Our Council spent nearly two years with a very professional City Manager pulling the City out of a dreadful national recession, rebuilding city management and building $6 million in budget surpluses and other reserves. And now a voting block of four, with no advance notice to the public, and with virtually no stated rationale, sends our City Manager packing.

    What will they do next???

    Six weeks ago, the block of four (Ward, Lester, Bonkowski and Blossom) told the community they hoped to keep Brenda Bauer’s expertise on hand until a new manager is found — in order to transition effectively to the new manager. Then, last night, it all changed without explanation. None of the four offered any sensible rationale for the chop and change. This is appallingly disruptive governance and is the kind of behind-the-scenes conspiring that shows no respect for what this community wants and deserves from a City Council.

    The rational questions last night were asked by Bob Scales, Kirsten Hytopoulos and Anne Blair. And there were no sensible answers.

    New mayor Lester — who used to talk about the importance of the advance notice of significant agenda items, and who used to talk about the governance manual’s “three touch” and “no-surprises” rules, somehow dispensed with all of that due process last night. It seems she now believes that hit-and-run surprises are good enough when her block of four decides behind the scenes that it’s time for their next shock to the system.

    God only knows where they expect to find a professional and capable interim City Manager??? And we could be stuck with that person for 6-9 months while they try to find a person willing to take the risk of serving a Council like THIS. The word is apparently out about this dysfunctional block of four. As Mr. Bonkowski reported last night, they’ve so far only received applications from two firms willing to serve as headhunters — and those are distant companies from Texas and the mid-west.

    How long will it be before we start seeing city organizational breakdowns, unmet deadlines, dropped projects, and other consequences of this disruptive Council majority. They’ve already wrecked staff morale. What next???

    - Barry Peters
    Former City Council member (2008-11)

  19. Fletch2012 Says:

    Dj I’ll take drama over psycho rightwingnut any day of the day. There is nothing honest about Jimmy other than his affinity for PBR.

  20. James M. Olsen Says:

    I hope the screen writers and idea people in LA are getting the remake of Twilight Zone on Bainbridge ready for the big screen. Didn’t Robert Dashiell run for Council? — my, oh, my.

  21. James M. Olsen Says:

    Here is a good example of the before/after. COBI citizens had a dysfunctional form of government according to their $140K Benchmark Study. Citizens changed the form of government to get to the promised land. Here is a classic Howard Beal prophecy about citizens being “mad as HELL.” YouTube search Deceit, Deception Recall Mayor.” Now compare this to our current situation. “The new boss is the same as the old boss” but we spent $40K for the change. You will recognize many of the past Council members and staff.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lz-e3n68VT8

  22. Anne Culbyter Says:

    Yes, Mr. Dashiell ran for council. It was during the same election that James Olsen ran for the number-two position on the Sewer Board and was so soundly flushed by his Island neighbors (80% No to JMO)that late at night, one can still here the gurgling sound as away he goes, down the drain.

  23. Ray Says:

    Only someone desperate for a job would take the position as a city manager for Bainbridge Island. If I were able to contact everyone who would ever apply I would recommend they look at the record of the current city council very closely – VERY CLOSELY!

    The actions of the council are, to put it simply, childish and irresponsible power plays with no regard for the results of their actions. The smart move would be for the citizens of Bainbridge Island to ask for a recall vote of the ENTIRE city council.

    Then limit the terms of office for the council members to two, two-year terms (or one four-year term) with no possibility of being reelected.

    Next, have an elected mayor to act as city manager, one that the city council can’t fire and must find a way to live with for the mayors entire term.

    Failing these three choices, return management of the island to Kitsap county. It is very clear that the experiment of self government has become a failure made up of power plays, political in-fighting and just plain bad management.

  24. Paul Ziakin Says:

    In response to “Ray Says
    Actually the one city council member that needs to go is Bob Scales. His bullying, threatening, and simply mean hearted name calling may work well in his court room dramas, but it has no place in a community city council setting.

    Do the right thing Bob Scales, step down before the community finally wakes up to your nastyness disguised as “concern”.

    Paul Ziakin

  25. Northender Says:

    I think Ray’s comment #23 sounds pretty good. Clearly, there is a dearth of leadership at COBI. Is there even a precedent or due process for removing these immature power drunks? I think we should clean house and start all over again with some state/county appointed babysitters. Meanwhile, the folks who were granted the honor of serving the island community and have decided to handle it the way they have should be taught the true meaning of community service. Let them start by picking up trash in public areas and scrubbing the sidewalks! Can I get a refund on my taxes??? If not, I have a pile of fresh manure that needs to be dug into my garden over the next couple of weeks and a pitch fork with Debbie Lester’s name on it.

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