City Administrator: Mayor may be looking for a pay raise

Outgoing administrator explains his surprise at learning his contract would not be renewed.

ferndale city administrator greg young photo cof
Ferndale City Administrator Greg Young. Photo courtesy City of Ferndale

Last night’s budget study session before the regular city council meeting became unexpectedly emotional last night when Ferndale City Administrator Greg Young addressed city staff and councilmembers at the beginning of the meeting.

It was recently announced Mayor Jon Mutchler would be opting not to renew Young’s contract when it expired at the end of this year. Before that, it had been common knowledge among city staff and councilmembers that Young would be retiring of his own accord next year.

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The mayor’s decision had come as surprise to some councilmembers and, according to Young’s comments last night, to him as well.

The following is the transcript of Young’s comments from the public record.

The last few weeks have been rather interesting for me as you can imagine.

I want to, first of all, thank the entire council for all the kinds words of support and encouragement. I and my family are eternally grateful. Actually, I’m just kidding. The only one who had the guts enough to say anything was Keith [referring to Councilmember Keith Olson]. <laughter from staff and councilmembers>

It is an interesting time. I wanted to give you a little bit of a genesis here of the next few weeks. Perhaps at the next meeting, I assume the mayor will be bringing you new multiyear department head contracts, 3-yr contracts. He and I were not able to come to terms on what might be an acceptable amount. He thought 1% each year was appropriate and I saw 3%. So he rather unceremoniously handed my marching papers to Susan [referring to City Clerk Susan Duncan] who handed them to me.

I do want to say that, since then, I have been wondering, “Why?” As you know, a lot of times you are judged in life by not only what you do but how you do it. And in this case, the “why” was rather baffling because in March I was a stellar employee and come a few weeks ago, I’m not.

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I came to learn from the mayor, he gave me a rather bizarre outline of his reasons. One of them said, “I came to Jori [referring to Community Development Director Jori Burnett] a year ago and suggested this [unintelligible] for it. Jori said he’s interested, 6 months ago Jori said I’m really interested, a month ago he said he’s ready.”

Jon let me know that on the first 3 years, he’s become more comfortable in the role as mayor and he wanted to pick a successor before I left.

I think it could have been done better. It could have been done, I think, with a little more compassion and professionalism. But it happened. It happened unilaterally. I’m not sure if the last chapter has been written, in the history of Ferndale, in this regard. But it has become clear that the mayor feels that I do not bring value to the council and he’s comfortable in Jori’s abilities and he’s more comfortable in his abilities.

Even though, he offered to have me stay on for January, February and March with a rather bizarre 3% increase in wages, which I turned down because it didn’t seem like it would be the appropriate thing to do.

Unfortunately, now, I have very mixed feelings. As staff knows, one of my harder feelings is for them. Because now it is a question of rule by intimidation and dare not say anything lest this fate falls to you as well.

Nothing lasts forever. Been here almost 15 years – nothing bad has happened. I hope the same can be said for the next 15.

I figured that I would be given the same opportunity to leave rather gracefully that I have afforded others.

I can only assume that here in the future the cost savings that will be had by having Jori take over for me, and I assume Haylie [referring to Associate Planner Haylie Miller] for Jori, could very well be repackaged into a rationale for increasing the mayor’s compensation since he is obviously very comfortable and perhaps very good at what he thinks he can do.

I have worked for 10 mayors and over 50 councilmembers and, except for 1, I can honestly say that they loved the city more than they loved promoting themselves. And when those two things overreach, that’s great but unfortunately that’s not always the situation.

I will be here in the city until the end of December. I hope to move on to something else. I think I have a lot of horsepower left in me. But I really don’t see any reason for me to be here for these meetings. This is the mayor and Jori’s budget. It’s time for them to step up. Sirke [referring to City Finance Director Sirke Salminen] has put out an unbelievable amount of effort on this budget, she has been here well into the night.

I’m sure the City of Ferndale is going to do just fine. I guess we will just never know what could have been. But I know one thing that can’t be is I can’t be shamed into thinking I make too much money and I can’t be told that I should take something that is insulting as far as a wage in the future.

I had the temerity to say that if he and I couldn’t come to terms I was going to bring my case to you. That’s what sealed the deal.

After I said that, about a day or two later, he handed Susan a sealed envelope and she handed it to me unknown of what was in the contents.

I have been very happy. This has been the best job of my life, no doubt. I have done great things for Ferndale and I’m sure Ferndale will move on and my name will slowly fade from existence as it should be.

So really, again, I see no reason for me to be here. Staff is capable and we will have to see how everything works out. So thank you for your time.

Click the play icon below to listen to the audio version (source: City of Ferndale).

Immediately after, Young departed the room.

Mayor Mutchler then asked Finance Director Sirke Salminen if she was ready to lead the meeting but she was in tears and Mutchler said they would take a 5-minute break.

The City of Ferndale operates as a mayor-council city, where the mayor is granted authority to hire and fire city staff, including department heads and the city administrator.

According to the Ferndale Municipal Code, FMC 2.09.020, the city administrator’s scope of authority is defined as follows:

Under the direction and authority of the Mayor, the City Administrator shall supervise, administer, and coordinate the activities and functions of all City officers, departments, commissions and boards to implement City ordinances and policies through the effective use of City employees, funds, materials, facilities, and time, and shall direct and control the overall operations of the City to assure optimum services to the community.

 

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Joe is the founder of My Ferndale News. As a Ferndale resident, he hopes to empower the community with free access to news that matters and makes a difference in the day-to-day challenges faced while we work and live in the Ferndale area.