LEWISTON — Councilors shocked a room full of constituents and city staff Tuesday night by firing City Administrator Jim Bennett after two executive sessions.
Councilors voted 5-2 to buy out Bennett's contract, paying him a full year's salary and health benefits. Only brothers Tom and Nelson Peters, councilors in Wards 1 and 2, voted against the motion to end Bennett's contract.
Bennett disappeared into his office immediately after the vote, emerging later to leave. He was accompanied by former City Councilors Mark Paradis, Renee Bernier and Normand Rousseau.
Councilors gave no reason for their decision. They pre-empted a previously scheduled executive session before their regular meeting to meet with the city attorney to discuss Bennett's contract. They came out of that session at 7 p.m. and immediately went back behind closed doors to continue their conversation.
They came out 20 minutes later and announced their decision.
Bennett said councilors were perfectly within their rights.
"It is consistent with the contract," Bennett said. He said he planned to come back to City Hall on Wednesday to clear out his office.
Mike Blais of Webster Street called the council's action "ugly."
"I didn't agree with everything Jim Bennett did, but he was very professional and very successful," Blais said. "He worked for his city for eight years, but tonight he walked out with his tail between his legs because five of you voted. If I treated my employees that way, shame on me. And shame on you."