Bethel City Council fired former City Manager Pete Williams weeks ago, but Williams' termination was still the topic of the biggest showdown at last night’s council meeting. Council member Leif Albertson introduced an action memorandum to consult an attorney about whether the firing was legal. It failed 3-3 with Vice-Mayor Raymond “Thor” Williams and council members Fritz Charles and Carole Jung-Jordan opposing. Albertson, Mitchell Forbes, and Perry Barr voted in favor of consulting an attorney. Mayor Fred Watson was absent.
“We voted to get rid of Pete Williams last month, the four of us, and it just seems like some council members are trying to beat a dead horse,” said council member Jung-Jordan.
Fritz Charles asked what consulting with an attorney after the fact could even do.
Council member Albertson answered by saying, “Having the opportunity to discuss that with an outside attorney might prepare this city to deal with those future liabilities."
That’s a liability that could come if the fired Williams goes to court over wrongful termination, but Vice Mayor Williams argued that consulting an attorney might actually increase such a liability.
Criticism of each other’s performance as council members flew around the room. Council member Barr called the refusal to speak with an attorney “neglect.” Council member Forbes added, “I think it’s a little irresponsible if this body says nope, we don’t want to talk about this any more, let’s just shove it under, let’s not talk about it any more at all, let’s just move forward. I think that’s really irresponsible."
Vice-Mayor Williams countered, saying, “This is a political issue by the minority to spank the majority for their decisions."
He explained how some council members might use this issue in the next election: “So I get another ability to run for re-election this coming September on this issue that council member Williams hurt the city and not me, council member Albertson, or council member Forbes. I’m the good guy.”
The City Attorney is already on record questioning the way council fired the former city manager. This memorandum sought to prepare the city of Bethel in case the former city manager sues. So far, the city has received no notice of litigation from Williams.