Paris City Council suspended City Manager John Godwin with pay Monday night after meeting for almost three hours behind closed doors with an outside attorney.
“It was a hard thing to do, but I believe we acted in the best interest of our city,” Paris Mayor Steve Clifford said, offering no reason for the suspension.
The motion to suspend came from Linda Knox with a second from Paula Portugal. Clifford joined Clayton Pilgrim for the majority vote with Derrick Hughes and Renae Stone casting dissenting votes. Bill Trenado was absent.
“I do not agree, but it is what it is,” Godwin said before leaving the chamber.
Godwin declined to resign and indicated he would ask for a public hearing, according to Clifford. The city manager is an “at will” employee and is not under contract.
The Paris City Charter requires the suspension of a city manager to be by resolution “approved by a majority vote of the total membership of the council.” Although a majority vote was cast, one member of the council was absent and did not vote.
Clifford said he would consult with City Attorney Stephanie Harris today to determine what steps to take next with regard to a resolution and to the appointment of an interim city manager.
The charter reads as follows:
“The city council may suspend the city manager if the manager declines to resign at the request of the council, that request being expressed in a resolution approved by a majority vote of the total membership of the council. Such resolution shall set forth the reasons for suspension and proposed removal.
“A copy of such resolution shall be served immediately upon the city manager, who shall have 15 days in which to reply thereto in writing, and upon request, shall be afforded a public hearing, which shall occur not earlier than 10 days nor later than 15 days after such hearing is requested.”
At the hearing, the city manager will have 30 minutes to respond to his proposed termination, according to the charter. Members of the public will be allowed to speak in support of or in opposition to termination, and may address any aspect of the city manager’s performance.
“After the hearing, or after 15 days if the manager has not responded to the request to resign, and after full consideration, the council, by a majority vote of its total membership, shall adopt a final resolution of removal or reinstatement,” the charter states.
The city manager shall continue to receive full salary until the effective date of a resolution of removal.
“A public hearing is not going to be pretty,” Stone said after the meeting. “I think John Godwin has done a great job in leading this city, and I do not think this council performed its due diligence before making this decision.”
Hughes expressed similar sentiments.
“I voted against the motion because I did not have time to do my due diligence on this matter,” Hughes said.