Bainbridge council to discuss unnamed employee in executive session

The Bainbridge Island City Council will once again retreat behind closed doors to discuss the performance of a city employee.

The council will hold an executive session during its Wednesday, March 14 meeting.

The agenda for the meeting states the council will discuss the performance of an employee. There is only one employee that the council has strict authority over, however — City Manager Brenda Bauer.

According to Mayor Debbi Lester, Councilman David Ward requested that the discussion be added to the executive session agenda.

The topic of the talk is a mystery. After the council voted to part ways with Bauer in early February, and negotiated a severance package, it is unclear what council members have left to talk about in a private setting.

No council members contacted would comment in detail about the discussion planned.

Ward said the council can talk about any city employee.

"We will have to see what happens in executive session to see if anything will happen from it," Ward said.

Lester said that the council can discuss with the city manager other city employees.

"Ultimately we can't in any way take action regarding an employee such as a staff member. That's not our role," Lester added.

The city has cited the portion of the Open Public Meetings Act that deals with evaluating the qualifications of an applicant for public employment or reviewing the performance of a public employee.

Executive session reviews of the performance of a public employee are typically done where the governing body is considering a promotion or a salary or wage increase, according to the state Attorney General's website, or for an individual employee where the governmental body may be considering disciplinary action based on an employee's performance.

The council meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. with the executive session. It is expected to last an hour.

Currently, the council is engaged in an ongoing search for a new city manager. The council amended Bauer's contract in February so the city would have 90 days to find a replacement. Bauer has since remained in her position as city manager, assisting with the transition.

The council earlier set aside $250,000 from the contingency fund to pay for Bauer's severance package and the cost of the search.

Bauer came to Bainbridge Island in June 2010 as an interim city manager. She was given permanent status by a 4-3 council vote in August 2011.

Of the current council members, Lester was the only one to vote against giving Bauer the job permanently.

Three of the four council members who began their terms in January – Ward, Councilwoman Sarah Blossom and Councilman Steve Bonkowski – publicly voiced their disapproval of Bauer’s job performance while campaigning last year.

It wasn’t long after the three began their terms that discussion of Bauer’s status as city manager came up; the council began discussing the matter in a series of executive sessions that started Jan. 11.

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