AUBURN — City councilors Monday capped months of frustration and conflict with their city staff, voting to terminate City Manager Glenn Aho's contract.
Councilors voted 5-1 to remove Aho from his post, effective 90 days from Monday, based on language from his employment agreement.
Aho left Auburn Hall immediately after the vote. Reached by phone later, he said his employment agreement does leave him a way to return to Auburn Hall. The agreement required councilors to place him on 90 days leave before he is officially terminated. Councilors elected in the Nov. 8 municipal election could vote to return him to the job, he said. Aho said that is something he would consider.
According to the agreement, Aho is due a severance package equal to six months' worth of salary and benefits if he is terminated without cause. Under Aho's current $109,000 salary, that amounts to $54,500 plus unused vacation and benefits.
Councilors will meet in an emergency session at 7 p.m. Tuesday to discuss who will fill Aho's job in the interim.
Monday's vote came after two hour-long executive sessions. First, councilors conferred with the city attorney to discuss their legal obligations. They came out and voted to go into a second executive session to discuss Aho's employment agreement.
Councilor Mike Farrell, a supporter of Aho, said councilors have been building to Monday's decision for months. It became possible last month when Councilor-at-large Eric Samson was removed from office and replaced by Joe Gray, Farrell said.
Monday was Gray's first meeting as a councilor and he was the fifth vote needed to terminate Aho's contract. Councilors Belinda Gerry, Robert Hayes, Dan Herrick and Ray Berube also voted to terminate Aho.
Councilor David Young abstained from Monday's vote. When the motion to terminate Aho was first made, Farrell left his chair and moved to the audience, saying he did not want to be part of the vote. He did cast his vote from the audience, however — the sole nay vote.
Farrell blasted his council colleagues, saying they were so intent on firing Aho they did not think about what would happen next.
"What is the succession plan? Anybody?" Farrell asked. "This amounts to a witch hunt by the irrational."
Mayor Dick Gleason said the topics of who would replace Aho and how much his severance package would be were not discussed Monday. According to City Clerk Roberta Fogg, the City Charter names the assistant city manager as manager in this situation. However, the city does not currently have an assistant manager.
Gleason conferred with Fogg and police Chief Phil Crowell after Monday's meeting ended, then announced he was appointing Crowell acting interim manager for the day. He called a special emergency council meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday to make a formal decision about Aho's interim replacement.
Aho came to Auburn in March 2008, leaving a job as Lincoln's town manager. He succeeded Pat Finnigan in the job. Finnigan left the city in February 2007 to take a position as assistant city manager in Portland.
Aho was initially paid a $103,000 salary. His current contract, through 2013, paid him $109,000 annually.
Aho, 41, was the Lincoln town manager for 13 years beginning in 1995. He grew up in Bridgewater, in Aroostook County, and has an undergraduate degree from the University of Maine at Presque Isle and a master's degree in public administration from the University of Maine. Before taking the job in Lincoln, he worked as an administrative assistant to the Brewer city manager.