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Monroe council ousts another city manager

Monroe’s City Council, in a surprise move Tuesday night, dismissed its city manager.

John D’Agostino had started work less than four months ago in mid-August. Monroe now must find its fifth city manager since late 2000.

The vote was 4-3, and it happened at the meeting where a new board majority took over after this fall’s municipal elections.

“If I were a city manager, I wouldn’t touch Monroe with a 10-foot pole,” said councilman Lynn Keziah, one of D’Agostino’s supporters. “It’s embarrassing. … It didn’t make any sense.”

He said D’Agostino had been doing a very good job for the city.

Councilman Freddie Gordon said it was obvious the new majority entered the meeting with a plan to oust D’Agostino. The vote was not on the agenda, but the issue was raised by councilman Billy Jordan.

“The (new majority) wants to micromanage the city. They’re meddlers,” Gordon said. He called the vote disappointing, adding, “It puts a bad black eye on our city.”

But in a statement at the council meeting, councilwoman Debra Duncan said the public, elected officials and city employees did not have confidence that D’Agostino could move the city forward.

The board majority also voted not to pay D’Agostino his severance, citing the city’s personnel policy regarding employees having a six-month probationary period. He had a base salary of $140,000.

The council did not name an interim manager, spokesman Pete Hovanec said, but agreed to meet soon to determine the city’s next steps. Assistant City Managers Greg Demko and Brian Borne will serve the city’s immediate needs.

In February, a study that Monroe officials commissioned to learn why their managers kept quitting detailed a dysfunctional city hall where workers were afraid they were being secretly recorded and claimed council members indulged in nepotism and often interfered in city affairs.

At the time of his hiring, D’Agostino, a former town manager near Boston, told the Observer, “Nothing in the report gives me pause. … It gives me the opportunity as a leader to bring council and staff together.”

Duncan, Jordan, Dottie Nash and new member Surluta Anthony voted to terminate D’Agostino. Mayor Bobby Kilgore voted with Gordon and Keziah against the move.

In October, Monroe suspended nine police officers without pay for a week over their handling of cases that led the district attorney to dismiss charges against 39 people. That’s about 10 percent of the force.

D’Agostino told the interim chief, in an email obtained by the Observer, “The trust and faith of this department in my opinion has been shaken to the core.”

Duncan emailed the Observer her statement from the Tuesday meeting.The former chief stated she was disappointed in D’Agostino’s “inappropriate handling” of several personnel issues, including the one surrounding the police.

D’Agostino “blamed the whole department for the actions of a few,” Duncan stated. “His actions and comments were geared more towards assigning blame rather than problem solving.”

D’Agostino could not be reached for comment. Keziah said D’Agostino was out of town and not at the meeting.

Bell: 704-358-5696; Twitter: @abell
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