Government — Assistant City Manager Lee Elliott will top the chain of command until a new city manager is found

Newberg Assistant City Manager Lee Elliott has been formally appointed interim city manager by the City Council, following the resignation last month of Dan Danicic, who vacated the position after news broke that he’d engaged in an affair with a subordinate.Lee Elliott

The subordinate, former Capital Projects Program Administrator Tabrina McPherson, was laid off from employment with the city of Newberg earlier this year and had threatened legal action against the city, alleging in a letter from her legal counsel that her termination was related to the affair, which lasted from October 2009 to mid-2011.

However, McPherson’s claims against the city were laid to rest when the City Council approved a settlement at its Aug. 19 meeting in the amount of $44,280 (which represents nine months’ salary). Originally appearing on the consent calendar of the Aug. 19 agenda, the matter of the settlement with McPherson was moved to new business at the start of the meeting. Councilor Bart Rierson explained why.

“We want to do everything we can to be as transparent as possible,” he said. “It’s an uncomfortable thing to discuss right now, but I can say the settlement agreement is substantially less than the first offer from (McPherson’s) attorney.”

Rierson went on to comment that media reports on the matter had been based mainly on a press release by the city and a letter from McPherson and her attorney to the city, which was released to the press.

“There are really two sides to this story,” he said. “But this isn’t really the proper forum to discuss it, and a lot of it was heard in executive session and is protected by confidentiality.”

Elliott, who had already been serving in the position since Danicic’s Aug. 12 resignation, was formally appointed to the interim post during a special council meeting Aug. 26.

“The council has full confidence in Elliott’s ability to run the organization at the highest level quality of service while we search for the next city manager,” Mayor Bob Andrews said.

Both Andrews and Elliott, who commented briefly on the matter during the Aug. 19 meeting, spoke highly of how city staff had responded in the wake of Danicic’s resignation.

“It’s been an honor to lead the staff. They’ve taken a very challenging situation and have done a very efficient, positive (job),” Elliott said.

“We are blessed with a phenomenal staff,” Andrews said recently. “The entire staff has really stepped up to make sure the city remains in good health during this interim period.”

Andrews said Elliott will continue to handle his responsibilities as assistant city manager, which include overseeing the Public Works Department, while acting as city manager part-time. The mayor added that previous interim city managers had also served on only a part-time basis. He said the council also approved a small increase in compensation for Elliott until a new city manager is hired.

That process, Andrews said, is expected to take at least four to six months.

“I’m leaning very strongly toward six months,” he said. “There will be a very broad recruitment — one might even say a nationwide recruitment.”

The search will begin with the appointment of a council subcommittee, which is to be announced later this month.