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Opinions clash over Unalaska city manager resignation

September 8th 12:32 pm | Jim Paulin Print this article   Email this article  

Will he stay, or will he go?

The Unalaska City Council voted 4-1 to last week offer City Manager David Martinson a $25,000 severance deal.

On Tuesday, Mayor Frank Kelty said he'd signed the agreement on Friday, but hadn't heard back.

"The ball's in his court," he said.

At issue, however, is whether Martinson ever formally submitted his intent to resign. Martinson is due to receive significantly more money if his contract is terminated without cause. He would then receive $40,000. If he quits, however, he is not entitled to any severance pay or reimbursement for moving expenses.

Calls from the newspaper to Martinson at City Hall were not returned.

At the Aug. 30 meeting, Martinson said he'd never offered to resign, a statement that was disputed by city council members. Councilmember Yudelka Leclere said that in his first three months on the job, he twice said he was going to resign. But in those two cases, he stayed after council members asked him not to leave, she said.

Martinson started work in 2015, with a three-year contract that pays $165,000 a year and expires Oct. 25, 2018.

Trouble between Martinson, the mayor and the council arose after a survey was circulated by Deputy Police Chief Jennifer Shockley asking the community its impressions about the current city council. There was allegedly then a difference of opinion between the council, mayor and Martinson as to whether Shockley should be disciplined for her actions. Martinson contends, however, that he never offered to resign over the issue. In recent weeks, Martinson has been out of town for family matters while the council and mayor discussed the issue in closed-door executive sessions.

Kelty said Martinson can stay on the job if he wants, but Martinson appeared conflicted about his commitment to staying in Unalaska.

"I apologize to all of you, but I can't do it anymore. I'm worn out," Martinson said last week.

When he was interviewed by the council for the job two years ago, he said his plan was to stay for 10 years and then retire.

Last week, he reiterated that, saying he loved Unalaska, really wanted to stay, and had a new personal vehicle being shipped to the island community.

In his 26 years in the U.S. Air Force, he said he moved 13 times, retiring as a colonel.

The city manager has also received significant community support over the incident.

Local residents speaking in support of Martinson included Abi Woodbridge, Bill Shaishnikoff, and Holly Holman, who were among over 80 people packed into the council chambers.

City council candidate Dennis Robinson blasted Kelty, calling for him to resign or face a recall election.

Kelty, how has lived in Unalaska for 46 years and has a long history of serving as the community's mayor, said the rebuke came as a surprise.

"I'm really taken aback by the personal attacks on me and my integrity," said Kelty. "I'm not a quitter."

While not mentioning the city manager issue, local resident Mike Barber said the city council is the community's governing body, and said it's come a long way. He said he once circulated a petition calling for the drug testing of the elected officials.

The issue of Deputy Police Chief Jennifer Shockley conducting an anonymous on-line opinion poll on the city council's performance arose during the meeting. Shockley conducted the survey while on her own time, but some said she faced resulting political pressure following the survey's release.

While her supporters called the poll constitutionally protected free speech, Kelty said it was a "gray area" because of her city employment. Councilor John Waldron, a former Unalaska police officer, said police work and politics don't mix well.

"Police officers do not get involved with politics because it can lead to corruption," said Waldron, who was the only councilor to vote against the severance deal that also includes $4,000 in moving expenses and a one-way plane ticket to Anchorage.

Leclere said Friday that she had no problems with Shockley's survey, and wished it was done openly, as any feedback is always good, positive or negative.

Jim Paulin can be reached at jpaulin@reportalaska.com.

 

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