Council says 'disconnect' led to Swenson firing

KINGMAN – The Kingman City Council fired City Manager Roger Swenson Monday citing problems in the Building Office and a difference in philosophy.

The Kingman City Council will meet in executive session at 3 p.m.

today to set the terms and conditions concerning the dismissal of Swenson as city manager.

Swenson was in his office Tuesday.

Fire Chief Chuck Osterman will be acting manager for a week followed by Public Works Director Jack Kramer, according to the city clerk's office.

Policy calls for naming another city department head as acting manager when the city manager is absent.

The council met in executive session with Swenson for nearly two hours following the regular meeting Monday before reconvening and voting 4 to 3 to terminate the manager's contract.

"Discussion focused on the building department and the current wave of growth that is driving the economy," Mayor Monica Gates said Tuesday.

"The city has pre-existing problems and is ill prepared for the current growth."

Vice Mayor Tom Spear made the motion to terminate the manager's contract when the council meeting was reconvened.

"There is definitely a disconnect between the council and the city staff," Spear said.

"Call it disconnect or trust, our only connection to staff is the manager.

The council felt more interpreted than understood."

Spear said the issues with the Building Office must be resolved, and Swenson had not accomplished that over the past two years.

He said the council could only work through the city manager to reach staff and, in Spear's opinion; the manager was not proactive enough to get things done.

The city manager, magistrate and attorney are the only three positions hired directly by the council.

All others are hired by the city administration headed by the manager.

Councilman Tom Carter said Kingman would be hard pressed to find another city manger with the skills and professionalism of Swenson.

"I am sorry to see such a skilled professional with great character not employed," Carter said.

"Roger has great people skills, my trust, and all his actions were above approach."

Carter said he was totally blindsided by the executive session Monday and had no information that would indicate what was to take place.

He said he was not the only one who felt railroaded.

Councilman Phil Moon expressed disappointment with the 4 to 3 vote and supported Swenson to the end.

"Roger did a good job standing up to the issues and making good progress on downtown redevelopment," Moon said.

"This is a trying and difficult time with chaotic growth in the city.

I will continue to do what I think is best for Kingman."

Spear made it clear that the city has good staff, and he expects the city to move ahead with a new manager that is more attuned to the elected council.

He said the Arizona League of Cities and Towns estimates a new manager could be hired in less than six months.

The League has a list of interim managers that could fill in during the hiring process.

The Kingman City Council extended Swenson's contract for another year following an annual evaluation May 24.

Baker said that was a different set of election officials, and obviously, Swenson received majority support in May.

The Kingman city manager is employed year to year and works at the pleasure of the council.

His evaluation was in executive session of the current council and mayor, with the extension acted on in a public session following the evaluation.

Spear and Carter were added to the council, and Gates replaced Les Byram as mayor since the May 14 meeting.

Swenson was selected in 2001 from a nationwide search of candidates to replace the retiring Lou Sorenson in August 2001 after Sorensen's 25 years of city service.

Kingman financial services director for the six years prior to becoming city manager, Swenson has 28 years of experience in virtually all levels of government.

His resume shows he worked for the state of Oregon legislature as an analyst, worked two years in Washington, D.C., and for the city of Portland, Ore.

During 10 years with the Washington County, Ore., Unified Sewerage Agency, Swenson worked with risk management, personnel, finance, planning and purchasing.