Meriden council to consider terminating city manager

Meriden council to consider terminating city manager

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MERIDEN — The City Council will consider terminating City Manager Guy Scaife, according to the agenda for Monday’s council meeting.

A resolution would require a majority vote of the 12-member council to pass. Scaife did not immediately return a request for comment Friday. 

The resolution, put forward by City Council Majority Leader David Lowell and Deputy Mayor Michael Cardona, calls for Scaife to be terminated “effective immediately.” The council is slated to discuss the matter in executive session.

Meanwhile, the minority caucus submitted a resolution to terminate Finance Director Michael Lupkas, who has helmed the Finance Department since 2008. The council will also discuss personnel matters relating to Corporation Counsel Michael Quinn, Economic Development Director Juliet Burdelski, and Purchasing Officer Wilma Petro in executive session.

It is unclear if either of the termination resolutions will have bipartisan support.

The resolution to fire Scaife states his employment agreement allows the council to terminate him “without cause” with a six-month payout of his annual salary. Scaife earns $168,300 a year after the City Council approved a 2-percent raise in October, meaning he would receive $84,150 under the terms of the resolution.

Scaife was hired by the City Council on Aug. 1, 2016, and began as city manager the following month, replacing former City Manager Lawrence Kendzior. Councilors have praised Scaife for implementing new technology in City Hall, but tensions between Scaife and Quinn, Lupkas, and Burdelski have been made public in recent months.

Burdelski submitted her resignation last month, telling councilors she had been interviewed by the FBI regarding Scaife and could not work with him. Scaife emailed the council just days before Quinn was reappointed as corporation counsel earlier this month stating he would not work with Quinn moving forward. Cardona and Quinn did not immediately return requests for comment on the matter Friday afternoon. 

Mayor Kevin Scarpati called it “extremely upsetting” to learn of the resolution to fire Scaife, of whom he has been an avid supporter. Scarpati said he should have been included in discussions prior to the resolution being put forward and felt the way the resolution was proposed, without input from him or the minority caucus, was wrong.

“I work closer with the city manager than any of (the councilors) do and if that doesn’t count for something then I’m not sure why I’m in this position,” Scarpati said.

The City Charter makes clear the mayor is the head of the city “for ceremonial purposes” but “shall in no event have a vote ... on any matter related to the appointment, suspension or removal of the City Manager.”

Scarpati said firing Scaife is not warranted given the lack of previous communication regarding issues with Scaife’s performance and called the resolution “a big mistake.”

“This is not a good time for the city of Meriden,” he said. “As someone who attends many events and looks out at all the achievements these last several years, I’m extremely disappointed at how things are being handled at City Hall by our elected officials. The way this has happened and the process this went through is not in anyone’s best interest. Shame on this council.”

Lowell declined to comment on whether he felt Scaife should be fired, but said the agenda shows there are many personnel issues the council needs to address.

”The long list of personnel related resolutions and requests for executive sessions submitted by members of the minority caucus and members of the majority caucus confirms that all 12 councilors are concerned about a number of personnel issues and are in agreement they need to be addressed,” Lowell said. 

Republican Minority Leader Dan Brunet said he is against firing Scaife, stating there has been a “a coordinated effort to discredit” Scaife since he was hired last year. 

”He just had raving reviews and a 2-percent increase on Oct. 30,” Brunet said. “What transpired between then and now? Terminating now is senseless, farcical and an excessive payout.”

Scarpati was also not in support of terminating Lupkas.

“This was something that was proposed to the council from the city manager in August,” Scarpati said. “I would not be in favor at this time to just go ahead in a knee-jerk reaction to let the finance director go because we haven’t come together collectively (to discuss it).”

Twitter: @LeighTaussRJ

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