3 of 5 city manager finalists were fired or released

Published 9:25 am Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Research into the five Albert Lea city manager finalists reveals that three of the finalists have been fired or released on a severance agreement within the last three years.

According to newspapers and other media sources in the candidates’ previous cities of employment, finalists Michael Lombardo and David Torgler have been recently fired from previous city manager positions, while finalist Alan Lanning has been dismissed on a severance agreement at a previous job.

The Albert Lea City Council selected finalists for the position last week after search consultant The Brimeyer Group presented the top 10 candidates.

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The finalists will come to town March 19 and 20 to tour the community, to meet with department heads and city leaders, and to be interviewed by a community panel, department heads and the city councilors.

Michael Lombardo

According to The Gazette in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Lombardo was fired in April of 2009 as the city manager of Iowa City after less than a year into his tenure.

“I think it came down to a difference in philosophy and understanding roles and expectations,” Lombardo told The Gazette.

He suggested the council didn’t think he was a good fit for the city, according to the newspaper.

The newspaper, which has a bureau in Iowa City, added that Iowa City Mayor Regenia Bailey refused to say why Lombardo was fired, saying it was a personnel matter.

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His annual salary was $160,000 plus benefits.

He followed longtime city manager Steve Atkins, who had served in the position for 21 years, and started just weeks before the city suffered from a flood, and faced “monumental” budget cuts as a result of the recession, according to The Daily Iowan, the student newspaper at the University of Iowa.

“Although his budget suggestions were not always in line with the council’s, officials would not say whether one specific disagreement triggered his firing,” the newspaper wrote.

An article in The Salem News published Saturday in Salem, Mass., stated Lombardo was one of three finalists interviewed to become the first town manager in Hamilton, Mass.

During the interviews — which were on Friday — Lombardo was asked to explain his firing.

“Since the city councilors have been mum since the moment of his termination, Lombardo said, it was difficult to know what may have displeased them,” the article states.

“He did note his predecessor had been in office more than two decades, and some of his colleagues in Iowa might have had trouble dealing with a newcomer.

“‘Maybe I was too much of a firebrand moving too fast,’ Lombardo said.”

Hamilton Selectwoman Jennifer Scuteri said she was impressed by the number of letters of recommendation Lombardo received from those he’d worked with in Iowa City.

David Torgler

According to KOHO News, Torgler was fired in November 2009 as city administrator in Leavenworth, Wash., after just 10 months with the Bavarian-themed, tourist-oriented city.

Leavenworth Mayor Rob Eaton said Torgler was placed on paid administrative leave for 30 days, after which he would not return to the position.

“Eaton said he decided to terminate Torgler after lengthy discussion with city council,” stated KOHO News, based in Leavenworth and Wenatchee, Wash. “The mayor said the decision to relieve Torgler of his duties was not reached lightly, and that he has the unanimous support of the council.”

When he announced the termination, the mayor told the news station the firing was based “on general concerns,” and that there was not one specific incident that prompted the decision. He did, however, note that he had spoken to Torgler over the summer about “various issues that needed to be worked on.”

His salary was about $105,000, according to the news station.

The termination came amid budgetary discussions by the Leavenworth City Council.

Prior to the Leavenworth position, Torgler worked as town manager of Winter Park, Colo., for one year and one month.

According to the Granby, Colo.,-based Sky-Hi Daily News, Torgler gave a surprise resignation from this position in September 2008.

“No explanation was given for Torgler’s resignation,” the newspaper wrote. “Questioned after the meeting, council members said they could not discuss personnel matters, but did say it was ‘mutually agreed upon’ between themselves and Torgler.”

Alan Lanning

Though Lanning was not officially fired from his previous city manager position in ski-resort town Steamboat Springs, Colo., the Steamboat Pilot & Today stated Steamboat Springs City Council voted in July 2008 to approve a severance agreement and a news release announcing the end of Lanning’s employment with the city.

“After a number of months of struggling with management related issues, Mr. Lanning and the City Council have decided to part ways,” the release stated.

In the article, Steamboat City Attorney Tony Lettunich said “Lanning was not fired and did not resign, but that he reached a severance agreement, which is a mutual parting of ways with City Council.”

The article stated a previous council hired Lanning in 2006, but in February and June 2009, the current council raised questions about the manager’s performance, “specifically customer service and interaction with the community and council.”

“The current City Council is drastically different than the one that hired Lanning in 2006. The November 2007 election saw three incumbents defeated and five new members elected to the seven-member body. The new council not only brought a new policy direction, but also questioned the actions of the previous City Council and moved quickly to reverse some of its decisions. Lanning and his staff were not always as swift to change directions.”

The article also touched on Lanning’s health and whether that might have been a factor.

Lanning is currently a city manager in Castle Pines North, Colo., where he makes $110,000. He has been there since December 2008.

The other two finalists in Albert Lea’s city manager search are Dean Torreson of Macomb, Ill., and Jim Norman of Afton, east of St. Paul.