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Tacoma: City Council keeps mum about Anderson’s contract

Post by Lewis Kamb / The News Tribune on July 12, 2011 at 11:49 am |
July 12, 2011 2:33 pm

Tacoma’s City Council is keeping mum so far today about its recent critical performance review of City Manager Eric Anderson and what actions they expect to take tonight when the council considers renewing Anderson’s employment contract.

Anderson

In a brief email this morning, Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland said she is withholding comment.

“I am not making any comments about the CM’s evaluation and contract extension until tonight’s council meeting,” the mayor wrote.

Deputy Mayor Lauren Walker said Monday she doesn’t expect the contract renewal to be an issue. But several other council members haven’t returned phone calls over the past two days or have declined comment until tonight’s meeting.

Anderson also has yet to respond to a phone message and email left for him today.

In a prepared statement Monday,  he called his job a “privilege” and said he appreciated the council’s evaluation.

“I am very grateful to the council for their hard work and candor,” he said. “As in previous years, I commit myself to using their appraisal to do a better job.”

Two city employees have said today Anderson is not expected to attend tonight’s meeting due to a previous engagement. (Update 2:33 p.m.: Anderson also wasn’t present at the council’s noon study session today.)

In a conversation this morning, former Mayor Bill Baarsma – who regularly keeps in touch with city personnel – noted that City Hall has “gone dark.”

“Things are pretty dark. They’re not talking to me. The people I talk to on a regular basis, they’re not talking now,” Baarsma said.

Baarsma, also scholar on Tacoma political history, said only twice in Tacoma’s history has a council voted out a sitting city manager. The votes, both 5 to 4 counts, ousted Floyd Oles in the early 1970s and Ray Corpuz in 2003, he said.  Several others stepped aside before it got that far, he said.

“It’s rare that you ever see the city council take an up or down vote on continuing the city manager,” Baarsma said.  “If in fact it’s the case that the city manager has lost the confidence of the majority of the council, the profession usually dictates the manager steps aside and some kind of settlement or cash out agreement is reached.”

Late last week, the city made public Anderson’s latest performance review. While commending Anderson for his budgeting work, staff recruitment and policy work, the report card also criticized Anderson more aggressively than in past years.

Among the criticisms, the evaluation said Anderson has failed to develop an economic development strategy for the city and often keeps council members in the dark about significant city issues.

““Some council members rate the relationship between (Anderson) and Council as good, but in decline,” one remark in the review noted. “Communication to the council is perceived as a serious weakness with significant room for improvement and opportunity to repair relationships.”

Anderson, 65, has served as Tacoma’s City Manager since 2005. As chief administrator, he is paid $236,373 to oversee day-to-day government operations, more than 2,100 employees and city budges totaling $1.7 million, including the $399 million general fund that covers basic city services.

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