Casper councilman calls for city manager's resignation

2014-06-11T08:00:00Z Casper councilman calls for city manager's resignationBy TOM DIXON Casper Star-Tribune The Billings Gazette
June 11, 2014 8:00 am  • 

Casper Councilman Keith Goodenough is calling for City Manager John Patterson’s resignation.

In a letter to the Star-Tribune meant for publication, Goodenough cites what he calls Patterson’s toxic, divisive personality and a laundry list of objectionable actions as reasons the city manager must go.

“I was not supportive of him when he was hired,” Goodenough told the Star-Tribune when called about his letter. “I thought he was much too flashy, and a wheeler dealer to be a good manager in the sense (previous city manager) Tom Forslund was a good manager.”

Goodenough said he is preparing a list of Patterson’s actions and decisions of which he disapproves.

Other council members say Patterson has the full support of a majority of the board.

“This was not brought to a majority of the council, because a majority of the council wholeheartedly supports John,” said Councilwoman Kenyne Schlager. “In my opinion, (Goodenough and Councilman Craig Hedquist) have a vendetta against John, and (the newspaper) was the only venue to really try to voice his opinion.”

Patterson support

Councilman Paul Bertoglio said Patterson has done an exceptional job on projects ranging from river restoration and the proposed conference center, to bringing ice to the Casper Event Center.

Goodenough said he felt backstabbed by comments made by Patterson in a phone call to the chief of police, as revealed in a recently released audio recording. That tape was released in connection with a federal lawsuit Hedquist filed against the city and Patterson after the City Council launched an investigation into whether the councilman used his position to gain an advantage for his company, Hedquist Construction.

“This is taking our eye off the ball once again … this is like the trial by newspaper. If Keith really had this problem, he could have brought it to council leadership, which he doesn’t like, nor does he trust,” Bertoglio said. “The civility of our council has totally been shattered … at some point, we’ve got to quit this and start acting like elected leaders.”

Executive session preferred

Goodenough said he would have preferred to have the discussion in executive session, but concern on the council that those conversations could be used in the looming federal lawsuit kept him from using that avenue.

An evaluation of the city attorney and city manager is done intermittently and at the discretion of the mayor, according to Schlager.

Schlager said the council’s legal team advised against holding an evaluation until ongoing litigation with Hedquist concludes. The last evaluation happened after Patterson’s first year as manager.

“The city manager works at the behest of the council, so the issue of the manager’s performance should always be open for discussion,” said Councilman Daniel Sandoval.

Mayor Paul Meyer said it comes down to a democracy, and Goodenough does not have the majority on his side.

“Many times through the Hedquist dealings we’ve had votes on who supports John and who doesn’t, and again, Keith and Craig have been the two carriers of that banner,” Meyer said. “All I can do is respond to a show of hands. Seven councilmen say John’s fine, we’re moving right along. Welcome to the democracy.”

Goodenough abstained from the otherwise unanimous July 2011 vote to hire Patterson. A committee made up of council, city employee and community members selected Patterson from a pool of 25 people. A Seattle-based executive search firm vetted and forwarded those applicants from the 47 people who sought the job.

“The committee to hire John was unanimous except for Keith, so I suspect he’s harbored resentment the entire time, and I believe it has something to do with John’s personal background and where he came from,” Schlager said.

Patterson was chief administrative officer of Ogden, Utah, before taking the Casper post. He succeeded Forslund, who was Casper’s manager for 22 years.

“(My wife) Cindy and I love Casper, and we will not be leaving Casper of our own volition,” Patterson said.

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