Council confirms Crowell to act as city manager

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AUBURN — Police Chief Phil Crowell said Tuesday he will spend the next three weeks researching ways the City Council can find a permanent replacement for ousted City Manager Glenn Aho.

City Councilors voted 6-0 Tuesday night to appoint Crowell to perform the city manager’s job until the next council meeting on Nov. 7. That night, councilors are expected to come up with a replacement plan.

“We have a lot to do right now,” Crowell said. “We have a city to run and a bond sale that’s going forward and we need someone to fill that role.”

Crowell will remain police chief in title during that time. He said he plans to look for a search firm to help find Aho’s replacement.

“There are firms that will come in and act as a manager in the interim, and even do the job search for the city,” Crowell said. “That’s one option I will be researching. Of course, we could keep the entire process in-house, and that’s another option.”

Councilors voted Monday to terminate Aho’s employment agreement, placing him on 90 days’ paid leave. According to Aho’s employment agreement, he is due a severance package equal to six months’ salary and benefits if he is terminated without cause. Under Aho’s $109,000 salary, that amounts to $54,500, plus unused vacation and benefits.

Mayor Dick Gleason said Monday that councilors did not discuss Aho’s severance package or who would succeed him. The City Charter says the assistant manager can fill the role in the manager’s absence, but the city has not had an assistant manager since July 1. Up to July 1, Crowell acted as assistant manager while Aho and his department heads worked out a new, team-based management approach.

Crowell said he has faith in the team approach and it would stay in place.

“We need the teams now more than ever,” Crowell said. “As you know, we are very short on top management and so they will be very valuable.”

In addition to Aho and the assistant manager job, the finance director position is still vacant. The city has hired Jill Eastman to fill that slot, but she is not scheduled to begin until Nov. 7.

Crowell said he would move to fill the vacant fire chief’s position. Geoff Lowe, assistant fire chief, has been acting as interim chief of that department.

For his part, Crowell said he was happy with his job as police chief and was not looking to be city manager permanently.

“I feel I owe something to Auburn,” Crowell said. “The community has been good to me, and I think I owe something to the employees here, as well. There are many people here who just want to come in each day and do their job, and it’s been tough for them to do that. I want to make it easier for them to do that.”

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