Patrick’s tenure is indefinite



Don’t worry. We got this.              

That’s the message wafting by after the Storm Lake City Council last week allowed City Manager Jim Patrick a year’s extension on his contract without a pay raise.

The message a year ago when a couple new council members were sworn in was that change was coming to City Hall.

But this contract apparently got in the way.

It says that if the council terminates the city manager’s employment it must pay him a regular salary for six months out.

We suppose that’s what all those lawyers were talking about during a four-hour stretch of meeting behind closed doors with the council and Patrick.

They emerged having not given Patrick six months’ notice of termination, which is called for under the contract and which would see the six-year employee packing by the end of June. Our reporter was greeted at midnight with a series of no comments.

The following morning Patrick told our reporter that he probably will retire after the school year is complete. He has a senior daughter at Storm Lake High School. That would be about June. Or not, depending on his pleasure.

His resignation letter is not on file. Neither is a lawsuit, although the council reportedly has been fretting over it recently in a series of closed meetings.

Patrick said he understands not getting a raise since the budget is in such tough shape.

The budget got in tough shape during Patrick’s tenure. Residential property taxes were jacked up for this year, and Patrick indicated that next year’s budget could be as bad.

A city clerk, sewer and water managers and two finance directors fled the administration. The dredge has become the Wreck of the Hespers. Street maintenance is falling behind. City marketing and promotion have been tossed to the wayside. Public safety positions have been eliminated. This is the basic stuff of local government.

Sure, we have done a bunch of storm sewer work but the local contributions put a straitjacket on everything else.

The public is left to wonder what is going on.

The mayor said he was too tired to talk, which is a first.

Everyone could have a Merry Christmas while piles of ice lay in the middle of the street downtown.

The public should be informed that if your water bill is not paid on time your service will be shut off. If you have questions about council or administrative performance, trust that your questions will be answered in a forum you cannot attend after which the public’s questions may be held in abeyance for the life of the contract.

None of this is Jim Patrick’s fault. He protected his flanks with lawyers and perceived leverage. More power to him.

Other administrators who got the heave-ho weren’t nearly as wily.

We pay school superintendents and city managers more than $100,000 per year not because they can dunk a basketball or do computer coding or even read a balance sheet but because they can get fired summarily when elections are held. New councils can take new directions that do not comport with the manager’s style. It is a fact of life for a public administrator.

Everything tells us that Patrick is just who the city council wants.

Except that nobody would say that for the record.

The taxpayers are left to read between the lines to get to the truth, use a Ouiji board or observe the behavior of squirrels to divine who is running city government.

And Patrick is free to stay on the job for as long as he would like, according to the no comments.

But then there is a wink. Like: “Hey, we got a plan. But you can’t know what it is.”

It must have been all worked out by the lawyers.

Which was fine by the city manager.

He is the one calling the shots.