The Portsmouth City Council has passed new legislation regarding the termination of City Manager Derek Allen, despite resistance from the city solicitor.
Councilwoman Jo Ann Aeh made a motion that council add two ordinances to Monday night’s agenda for the council’s consideration, one repealing a Dec. 18 motion and repealing Ordinance 2018-01 regarding certain actions taken concerning the city manager, and another authorizing and directing an inquiry into the conduct of the city manager. Council unanimously voted to have these items added to the agenda.
Upon the addition of both items, council also requested the legislation be passed as an emergency in accordance with Section 10 of the city charter.
But when discussion on the items came to the floor, City Solicitor John Haas questioned the validity of passing the new legislative measures as emergencies. According to Haas, he did not believe council had legitimate grounds for expediting the proposed legislation as cited in Section 10 of the charter.
“Placing this item on the agenda tonight without notice to the public that is here and waiving the three readings and passing this ordinance without really and real input from the citizenry, my question would be exactly what is the emergency as set forth in section 10 of the charter?,” Haas questioned council. “Under what part of section 10 are you indicating is an emergency?”
Aeh shot back that council now has its own legal representation, and that members of the council were following his direction. “The people have been wanting to know what these accusations are and the answers to them, and both sides of the story. The sooner we can do it, the better. We’re just trying to let the public know,” Aeh said.
Councilman Kevin E. Johnson, who has consistently sided with Allen and Haas throughout the conflict between council and the city manager, concurred with Aeh, saying, “I think we need to expedite this instead of paying legal fees and having special meetings. We need to get it out there and let [the citizens] decide. I am all for expediting this.”
In response to Haas, Mayor James Kalb suggested Haas’ reservations on the emergency status of the proposed legislation was motivated by the on-going legal matters between council and Allen, who is being represented by Haas, and further questioned Haas’ reasoning for delaying the ordinance.
Haas said the ordinance should not be expedited in respects to the charter, suggesting that the reasons given by council do not fall into acceptable reasons for waiving the rule as stated in the charter. Haas also stated that this instance was another example of council not abiding by the charter. “By adopting this ordinance, you are admitting you didn’t follow the charter before,” Haas said. Additionally, Haas believed council did not properly advertise the proposed ordinances prior to the meeting.
Both ordinances were passed under unanimous vote by council, waiving the three-reading rule.
A meeting of the investigative committee looking into the allegations regarding Allen’s actions is scheduled for 3 p.m. Wednesday in the City Building.
Reach: Ivy Potter (740) 353-3101 Extension 1932