A day after the city council voted to remove Clark Williams as its city manager, Williams was asked to vacate city hall on Tuesday afternoon.
According to Mayor Valerie Thomerson, the charter states that the city clerk will assume city manager responsibilities but City Clerk Jennifer Smith said she had not been notified of a change in her job status as of early Tuesday evening.
The city council voted Monday to remove Williams as its city manager and Thomerson called it a decision that should have happened sooner. On Tuesday afternoon Williams was asked to vacate the his office immediately and
“Personally, I thought it was overdue, other than that I do not want to say anything else because this is a personnel issue,” Thomerson said.
Councilmen Hoss Cooley, Wade Johnson and Jeff Davis voted to remove Williams with Larry Gage and Vernon Woods voting against the motion. A vote from the mayor was not necessary but she asked for the meeting minutes to show that if a tie had happened she would have also voted to remove Williams.
The council voted to request that Williams submit his resignation and for the city attorney to draft a letter notifying Williams he has 30 days notice but the mayor presented Williams with a letter on Tuesday requesting his exit immediately. Williams complied with the request. Thomerson said Williams’ contract with the city would be honored, which includes six month severance pay. According to Williams’ contract on file with the city, the city manager is compensated at a yearly salary of $85,000. The contract also states that the employment of the city manager can be terminated without cause.
Before the vote to remove Williams, Gage urged the council to keep its city manager.
“I know there have been some issues between Hoss and Clark and the (Mayor) and Clark but what is happening here is wrong,” Gage said. “We wouldn’t have the infrastructure that we have today (without Williams).”
Woods also showed support for Williams and after the meeting called the council’s vote a “big mistake” that could cost the city dearly.
Cooley made the motion to relieve Williams of his services with the city and Johnson declined to comment on his vote, but Davis, who had been appointed as Ward 3 councilman just three days earlier and had previously server for nearly seven years on the council, said Williams was not a good city manager.
“I never wanted you to be a city manager in the first place,” Davis said. “Most days you are not capable of being a city manager for the city.”
Davis complained that Williams had stalled on moving forward on infrastructure projects and let grants expire but was cut off by the mayor who said it was not appropriate to discuss details about Williams job performance.
Following the vote Williams reminded the council that he had a contract with the city and would not willingly resign. That statement invoked an outburst of applause from some in the audience and three members of the public were removed.
Last week Williams said he had expected to be fired after the mayor placed his job status on the agenda and told him she no longer had trust in him.
“(Thomerson) told me she doesn’t trust me,” Williams said. “I asked what are the reasons and she said they would be discussed on Monday.”
However, details were not discussed on Monday. The most specific reason for letting Williams go was stated by Davis who complained about grants falling through and a stoplight project at the intersection of Edmond Road and Piedmont Road that had not been completed. Williams said he was not sure what Davis was talking about regarding grants and said the reason a stoplight had not yet been installed was because the city does not have the money to complete the project.
According to one city official, who asked not to be identified, much of the disdain for Williams by Thomerson and the council stems from local developer Phil Boevers.
“It’s no secret that (Boevers) does not like Clark because he has really modernized the city and updated ordinance for developers,” the city official said. “Boevers was instrumental in Thomerson’s election and he has pushed for Clark’s removal because it helps his business.”
Boevers did not return a request for comment and has said in the past that he will not speak to the Gazette on the record. Thomerson has also said her decisions as mayor are not influenced by Boevers.
Williams said he felt his removal was political and acknowledged the influence on Boevers.
“It’s nothing but politics and pushing a political agenda,” Williams said. “It’s about a certain developer in town that wants his way and now he’s got it. I wish him luck.
“We are trying to do our best, all I am trying to do is improve the community and I think I have done that, but I serve at the pleasure of the council.”
Another source with the city said there were at least “a few” city officials that have said they would consider resigning if Williams were to be let go. The source cited several conversations with city officials that expressed discomfort with working for the city if Williams were to be let go because they felt it would put the city in a tough position during an important time.
Following Monday’s meeting Thomerson said she did not have a replacement for Williams in mind but that the council would quickly begin the process of looking for a new city manager by posting the job description.