2016-06-17 / Community

Councilors meet to discuss personnel after resignation

By Wm. Duke Harrington
Staff Writer

SOUTH PORTLAND – South Portland City Manager Jim Gailey tendered his resignation on Wednesday, June 8, to take the job of assistant manager for Cumberland County.

City employees were notified of the resignation in an email sent by Gailey shortly before noon in which he said that after nine years as the city’s top administrator, “I now find it’s time for a change as I want to explore other opportunities and career goals.”

It was almost exactly one year ago when assistant city manager Jon Jennings jumped the river to take the top job in Portland. At that time Gailey said in interviews with the Sentry he had not applied for the job and had no interest leaving his post.

However, since then the city has faced increasing criticism from some quarters, including among a few city councilors, that it routinely disregards its own ordinances, it is embroiled in what promises to be a multi-million lawsuit over its 2014 vote to ban “tar sands” oil, and rumors are rampant that, in the wake of several high profile business defections from the city, Fairchild Semiconductor may soon join the exodus – a move that would have considerable impact on South Portland’s budgetary bottom line.

Gailey has now reportedly taken a $17,000 cut in pay to move on. He earns $123,000 per year as South Portland’s city manager, including a monthly vehicle allowance. He is slated to make $106,000 as the county’s No. 2 man.

On Monday, the city council met behind closed doors to start the process of seeking a replacement for Gailey. The motion to go into executive session did not name Gailey specifically, stating only that the private meeting was for “discussion of public employee’s employment status.”

Maine’s Freedom of Access Act does allow the city council to close its doors to discuss an employee resignation, but “only if public discussion could be reasonably expected to cause damage to the individual’s reputation or the individual’s right to privacy would be violated.”

There is nothing in Maine law that allows succession planning to occur out of public view. The city council has scheduled a public workshop on how to manage the transition process. That session will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, July 11, at city hall.

Per the terms of his contract, Gailey gave a 45-day notice of his departure. Assistant City Manager Josh Reny – with the city since late September 2015 – will likely step up as interim city manager until a permanent replacement for Gailey can be found. Details of the search process were not released following Monday’s meeting.

Gailey, a South Portland native, started working for the city in 1986 as a part-time referee for soccer games with the recreation department, while still in high school. Along the way to city manager he worked for six different city departments, doing just about everything from working off the back of a garbage truck on up to city manager.

In 2014 he was awarded the Linc Stackpole Managerof the-Year Award and the annual New England Management Institute conference.

“In 1995, I was fortunate to turn a college internship into my first full-time position here in South Portland and I never looked back. A lot has changed since the fall of 1986 and the experiences and opportunities that I have had working in six departments along the way are amazing. We had a lot of fun doing a lot of great things here in South Portland and this will not change because one person is gone. I wish you all the luck.”

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