Clarksburg City Council is holding a special meeting Thursday to discuss Howe’s job performance.
“Our city manager last week reached out to council through an intermediary and indicated that he wasn’t sure that he could work with some of the new members of council that have recently been elected and with looking at possibly doing some kind of a voluntary leave or buyout,” Clarksburg Mayor Ryan Kennedy said. “While that ended up not working out, what we ended up doing is, once we became aware of this issue, we knew it was something we had to get on right away so that it doesn’t fester and doesn’t distract from governing the city.”
On the agenda is a resolution that would suspend Howe with pay for 30 days in anticipation of termination. If passed, City Clerk Annette Wright will assume the position of interim city manager during this time.
During Thursday’s meeting, the public will be able to voice their opinion of Howe’s performance, both positive and negative.
“After the public gets its say, the council will debate amongst itself again in public, and we’ll have a public vote,” Kennedy said. “And however it turns out, it turns out, and then we can move on to other things in governing the city.”
Kennedy said it is important to him as the newly appointed mayor for this matter to be discussed in an open meeting rather than in an executive session.“I really believe that transparency and openness in government is important,” he said. “The city manager works for council, and council votes for the people, so indirectly the city manager works for the people, and I think the people ought to have a say in whether or not he remains city manager. I think that for too long in Clarksburg a lot of deals were made in back rooms and the public didn’t have input, and I want to bring things out to the light of day.”
During its May 14 meeting, council voted to extend Howe’s contract 2022 to 2023 and also included a 3 percent cost-of-living raise, bringing his total annual compensation to $142,326. Howe has served as city manager since 2005.
“Obviously with new council comes new ideas, and I was very vocal that the old council should not have extended the contract and given him a raise just on their way out the door as a lame duck council, especially when he still had several years left on his contract anyway had they done nothing,” Kennedy said. “The new council should’ve been allowed to address whether or not to give a raise and a further extension or not.”
While he cannot speak for all members of council, Kennedy himself is not pleased with the direction the city of Clarksburg has been heading.
“I’ve been very vocal over the years that I think that we have problems that we’re not addressing, specifically homelessness, crime, rampant drug use, etc., and I really think that we need to focus more on those issues as opposed to some of the issues we’ve been focusing on in the past.”
Kennedy said the newly elected members of council share in this new vision for the city.
“A lot of them are wanting a new direction for Clarksburg and to address these crime and drug use issues, which I believe, personally, are really hurting our town,” he said.
Having lived his childhood in Clarksburg, Kennedy said he fondly remembers better days in his beloved city.
“I’ve seen what it was and I’ve seen what it is, and I know it can be better than it is,” he said.
Council will revisit the matter in August following the 30-day suspension period.
“People can have 30 days to think about it, cooler heads can prevail, and then 30 days from now we’ll have another meeting. That’s when the future of the city manager’s position will be determined,” Kennedy said.
Thursday’s meeting will begin at 6 p.m. in the council chambers of Clarksburg City Hall.