By Charles Sercombe
It looks like City Manager Katrina Powell will get a contract extension.
That appeared to be the case at Tuesday’s monthly Receivership Transition Advisory Board meeting, when Boardmember Mark Stema asked if there was a way to extend Powell’s contract by adding to the Emergency Manager’s Final Orders.
“I know the Board needs to do something if the council doesn’t step up,” Stema said.
The city has been under the financial supervision of the RTAB ever since former Emergency Manager Cathy Square left her post over two years ago.
A bare majority of the city council has refused to extend Powell’s contract even though it expires June 30 and there is no replacement lined up. With no contract extension in place, the council agreed to seek bids from search firms to look for candidates for the city manager’s job.
That was over a month ago and the request for bids continues. Considering it usually takes four to six months for a field of candidates to be rounded up, the council would have to appoint an interim city manager after June 30.
But that could trigger the state to call in a $2 million loan because the loan conditions require a full-time, professional city manager to be in place at all times.
This predicament has prompted the RTAB and Treasury Department to take the unprecedented task of stepping in to make sure the city manager’s position is filled.
The RTAB was set up to react to city decisions, not take an active role in making decisions for the city.
Patrick Dostine of the Treasury Department confirmed that the final order has been updated and is under review.
While not explicitly saying the change under review dealt with Powell’s employment contract, it was generally understood to be the case given the context of Stema’s question.
City Manager Powell could not be reached for comment.
Dostine said he was not “at liberty” to go into detail.
Deborah Roberts, who chairs the RTAB, said the Board is in an “unfortunate situation.”
She said the Board has tried to encourage local control by the council, but the council keeps “taking that control and throwing it back to RTAB. … We tried.”
The RTAB is expected to announce the decision of the Treasury Department at its April meeting.
Councilmember Anam Miah, who has been a critic of Powell, didn’t have kind words for the state’s action.
“If the state wants to keep oppressing and controlling the city, that’s news to me,” Miah said.
As for the council not transitioning to the responsibilities of local control, Miah said “that doesn’t make any sense.”
“It’s the state doing the opposite.”