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The Haymarket Town Council last week voted unanimously to suspend town manager Gene Swearingen with pay until Jan. 7, pending the outcome a review of his actions in office.
Haymarket council suspends Swearingen
© Gainesville TimesThe Haymarket Town Council last week voted unanimously to suspend town manager Gene Swearingen with pay until Jan. 7, pending the outcome a review of his actions in office.
During a special session of the town council on Thursday, Dec. 13, Mayor David Leake voted to break a 3-3 tie that sent the council into a closed session to discuss the performance of Swearingen, though no one identify the specific problems with the town manager.
When the council members and the mayor returned, councilors voted 6-0 in favor of suspending Swearingen with pay until the council reconvenes at its next regularly scheduled monthly meeting in January.
Vice mayor Jay Tobias, who motioned for the suspension, said it essentially amounts to a 2.5-to-3-week vacation for Swearginen.
Tobias explained his motion by saying during an interview that he didn't think the council would support suspending the town manager without pay.
What that means for town residents is that they're paying for Swearingen's services even though he's not delivering them and already had scheduled leave time for the end of the year anyway.
Town staffers, the mayor and council members instead are picking up the slack, with Leake and Tobias approving town invoices.
"I can just assure (residents) that the town is just running the same as if Gene was on vacation," said Leake, later adding, "I don't see any service issues or perceived service issues over the next three weeks."
On Monday, taxpayers found out they'll be footing the bill for another special session of council called for by Leake.
It is set for this Thursday, Dec. 20 at 8 p.m.
While Leake said he could only confirm that the point of the council meeting was to discuss "personnel" issues, he guessed that the cost of a special session runs between $1,200 to $1,500, depending on the town attorney's fees, the town clerk's salary and pay for council members.
Given the cost and the timing, it is unlikely that council would reconvene for a second special session in a eight days unless the matter was deemed
"All I know is it was necessary," said Leake, refusing to offer any other details.
He did confirm that he intends to support the council entering into closed session at the meeting.
The mayor only votes to break ties among council members.
When the council enters into closed "executive" sessions, the public is not privy to what is being discussed behind closed doors.
Council members vote afterward on whether the intended purpose of the session was the only topic or topics discussed during the meeting.
Both Leake and Tobias declined to address the issues faced by Swearingen during separate phone interviews.
"I think everybody on the council sees the urgency of the issue," said Tobias.