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MUSCATINE – With City Administrator Gregg Mandsager on medical leave and not present at Thursday’s city council meeting, discussion of the termination of his contract was tabled Thursday evening by the Council — but not without a few personnel changes.

Council approved motions made by council member Kelcey Brackett, who had made the motion to review Mandsager’s contract during the Oct. 17 meeting, to direct city attorney Matthew Brick to begin looking for an interim city administrator outside the current employees and to assign duties of deputy city administrator to department heads Jerry Evers and Rich Kleims. Discussion of Mandsager’s contract is scheduled to continue during the council’s Dec. 5 meeting.

“We need someone here so our staff is able to do their jobs without having to worry about management duties that they don’t normally do,” Brackett said.

About a week after the Oct. 17 meeting, Mandsager took a leave through the Family Medical Leave Act, which allows him to be absent up to three months. Brackett said after the meeting that the search for an interim city administrator would allow the city to move forward in Mandsager’s absence. By the time three months is over, he said, the city will be well beyond the time budgeting for the next fiscal year needs to begin.

Brackett also didn’t get a consensus on a proposal to review the terminations of city employees since the Oct. 17 meeting. Mayor Diana Broderson said several people who had attended the meeting were concerned about a termination that had occurred. While neither Broderson nor Brackett identified the terminated employee, Ann Meeker, who commented at the end of the meeting, revealed the person is former inspector Jason Garmong.

According to the contract, the City of Muscatine would pay Mandsager six months’ severance if the termination moves forward. A simple majority vote of council members is needed to terminate his contract.

According to the city’s web site, the city administrator ensures policy decisions made by the council are executed. It is an appointed position by the city council. Mandsager, who has been the city administrator for 10 years, received a performance evaluation on his one-year contract earlier this year in which the contract was renewed and he was given a 1% pay increase. The council also authorized an outside consultant to evaluate the process used, but no report has been given yet.

The council also discussed with city human resources director a memo that was circulated to city employees requiring employees to report any work-related interaction with a city council member. During council comment on Oct. 17, council member Santos Saucedo asked for clarification about the council’s recent decision to change an ordinance allowing council to speak directly with staff. Previously, any communications, including simply speaking to a staff member, from council members to the staff had to be done through Mandsager. The new ordinance allows the council to speak to city staff, but requires that directives from the council come through Mandsager. Saucedo said the memo set up an “us vs. them relationship” between the city workers and the council.

Brackett moved to strike down the part of the memo that required the reporting of communication. The council approved it.

Mandsager was at the heart of a controversy that led to Mayor Diana Broderson being removed from office during her first term, though she was later reinstated by the courts. Broderson was reelected to another four-year term in 2017.  

In May, the city settled a lawsuit filed by Mandsager alleging defamation of character and a countersuit filed by Broderson. The settlement awarded $75,000 to Broderson and $50,000 to Mandsager.

During the removal process, Mandsager claimed there were many instances in which Broderson allegedly committed slander or libel against him. During this time, Broderson allegedly said her position as mayor had been undermined by Mandsager, he had subjected her to a hostile work environment, and that her position had been threatened due to gender discrimination. In Broderson’s countersuit, she accused city leaders of defamation.

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