Bainbridge council votes for an immediate exit for city manager | UPDATED

Bainbridge City Manager Brenda Bauer, center, listens as Councilman Bob Scales talks during a recess after the executive session at Wednesday
Bainbridge City Manager Brenda Bauer, center, listens as Councilman Bob Scales talks during a recess after the executive session at Wednesday's city council meeting. At right is Councilwoman Kirsten Hytopoulos.
— image credit: Brian Kelly / Bainbridge Island Review

The Bainbridge Island City Council gave City Manager Brenda Bauer an early exit from city hall Wednesday night.

The move came after an hour-long, closed-door executive session that was called to discuss the performance of an unnamed city employee.

Councilman David Ward asked the council to make Bauer's last day of work Thursday, March 15.

The early firing was approved on a familiar 4-3 vote.

Bauer's eventual departure was not unexpected, but the quick exit was a surprise. The city council voted in early February to amend Bauer's contract to allow for her separation from the city.

That move gave the city three months to find a replacement, and Bauer has continued to serve as city manager during the start of a search for a new manager.

The move to remove Bauer did not go without dissension.

Councilman Bob Scales said there was no advance notice that the council was going to ask Bauer to leave sooner, rather than later.

"There was nothing on the agenda," he said.

Scales said the negotiated settlement gave Bauer an additional two months' worth of severance and an extension of benefits to get her to work through the transition of city managers.

The costs would have been less if the council would have separated her employment when it first fired her, he said.

"It would have cost the city significantly less money," Scales said.

"In my experience in six years on the council I have never worked with a more professional or more organized leader," Scales said of Bauer.

"The council is about to make a decision that will throw the city into turmoil," he said just before the council voted on the matter.

Mayor Debbi Lester interrupted Scales soon after he began speaking, and first tried to limit his comments to three minutes.

He asked for 10, but Lester said she would give him five.

After he began speaking again, she interrupted him again with a parliamentary question.

He used his remaining two minutes to praise Bauer's work in bringing the city back from the brink of financial ruin.

"I want to apologize for the unprofessional treatment she has received," Scales added.

"It's a dirty trick," said Councilwoman Anne Blair.

Councilman Steve Bonkowski agreed that Bauer did "a remarkable job" in restoring the city's financial footing.

Even so, Bonkowski said he supported her early firing.

"This was very carefully and thoughtfully considered," Ward added. "It's the right thing for our community."

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