Lewisburg's retiring city manager is to be paid a bonus greater than $17,500 following a split vote by the City Council on Tuesday when a councilman challenged the mayor's authority to raise the subject for consideration.
City Manager Eddie Fuller "has done phenomenal things," Mayor Barbara Woods said, noting Fuller has been manager for 17 of his 38 years of service to the city. Woods recommend an amount equal to two months of Fuller's salary. Discussion indicated he's been paid more than $70,000 per year.
Councilman Ronald McRady opposed providing Fuller a severance package, which implied dismissal, or a bonus, or what Woods wanted, which might better be described as a retainer fee so Fuller would be available to help interim managers and his successor.
Woods' suggested payment would have resulted in Fuller being paid nearly $11,700, but as discussion between councilmen became contentious, Councilman Odie Whitehead Jr. called for a payment equal to three months' salary and that was approved on a 3-2 vote.
Councilmen Robin Minor and Hershel Davis voted with Whitehead. Councilman Quinn Brandon Stewart voted no, with McRady, explaining Fuller hadn't officially filed his letter of resignation until it was too late for leaders to have a successor available now.
Fuller agreed to make public in January what City Hall insiders had known since before Christmas 2009 -- that he wanted to retire in conjunction with his 62nd birthday this month so he may start receiving Social Security payments next month.
Fuller left the council's meeting room and remained absent during discussion about him.
McRady's challenge to Woods' announcement of an item on the council's agenda came in the form of a question.
"Did you say you introduced this?" McRady asked.
Woods: "I asked for it to be on the agenda."
McRady requested an opinion from City Attorney Steve Broadway and discussion continued as Woods read from the Charter about the mayor's duties.
"I can't make a motion," the mayor said.
Stewart defined "severance pay" as money paid to an employee who's been dismissed.
"Mr. Fuller has been provided a house," Stewart continued, in reference to a brick house in Lone Oak Cemetery where a grounds keeper or public works superintendent once lived.
Fuller has purchased another place to live south of Lewisburg.
A business that provides interim managers while cities look for successors contacted Stewart who suggested that option be explored. It's not a good idea to pay someone as suggested by Woods, Stewart said.
McRady read a dictionary definition of severance pay, saying it's paid after someone is terminated. Furthermore, "We have employees who haven't had a pay raise in two years."
Fuller's annual salary is more than $70,000 a year now, and he's provided a home, McRady said. Paying more as he enters retirement "is wrong," McRady said.
Stewart interpreted the Charter as saying the mayor shall not have any regular administrative duties, but discussion continued as others contend the council can appoint an interim manager and it could be the mayor.
Voters made Woods mayor, Whitehead said. "If we can't trust her, we're in a bad way."
Woods isn't seeking the position, she said, explaining she'd made a "lighthearted" remark that she didn't want it, but would do what needs to be done.
And she advocated calling the payment to Fuller a bonus, instead of a severance package.
Lewisburg needs someone with experience to help it through a transition period, Whitehead said, calling for an increase in the amount Woods suggested.
"This man has served the city with all his ability," Whitehead said. "If he did wrong, he should have been gone before now."
McRady moved to table the subject. That requires an immediate vote. It failed 3-2 with the same array of votes for Fuller's bonus.
Stewart called for something in the motion so Fuller would be required to work. Minor agreed.
"I'd be surprised if he didn't" continue to help the city, Whitehead said.
Fuller later said he'd help familiarize interim managers and a more permanent successor with the nature of the work. Fuller was described as the "institutional memory" of Lewisburg's City Hall.
"Whether you like him or not," Minor said, "We don't have someone to do it."