Action delayed on ousted employee
Although the City Council agenda Monday indicated that members of the Council were to take action to accept or reject the termination of former city codes administrator Mike Hooper, the item was taken off the agenda.
Members of the Council agreed to take the item off of the agenda at the request of city attorney John Thompson.
"Mike Hooper requested to be given what is called a due process hearing," Thompson said. "The Council is going to go ahead and provide him with that hearing and allow him to present the information he wants. Until that hearing takes place, it is my feeling that it is not appropriate (to vote on accepting or rejecting his termination)."
Thompson said that the hearing will take place within the next week in front of the Council or a tribunal composed of Council members. Thompson went on to say that the city is also trying to determine whether it will even be necessary to have the Council vote to accept or reject the termination, since the duties of City Administrator David Fuqua include the ability to hire and fire.
Hooper told the Sentinel last week that Fuqua approached him July 14 and informed him that he had the option of resigning or being fired. Hooper had said he opted to be fired. Thompson did not specifically comment on the nature of Hooper's termination, but said Tuesday that the decision was Fuqua's. Meanwhile, Fuqua, on Tuesday, referred specific questions over the matter to Thompson, but did confirm that Hooper was no longer a city employee.
Despite the fact that city officials are trying to determine the precedent they would like to set regarding hiring and termination procedures, members of the Council will be able to either affirm Fuqua's decision or reject it following the due process appeal, Thompson said.
Since Hooper's departure, Angela Solberg, an assistant city planner, has stepped in to fill the void. Solberg, who began working with the city in February before taking maternity leave and returning recently, said she is prepared to take on the extra responsibility, although it will require an adjustment period.
"A lot of the stuff is the same as what I had been working on with Mike," she said. "But I will also be picking up a lot of the stuff he did that I was not involved in. It is going to be a lot busier and it will be different going from the one who was helping someone to the one who is doing everything."
Solberg said her duties will include preparing information for the members of the Planning Commission and City Council and answering codes and planning related questions for developers and private citizens alike. Although she said city officials have not given her much of an indication as to whether her duties will become permanent, she is happy with the position.
"I like the work and I like the people," she said. "It is just a matter of getting caught up."
Solberg graduated from Iowa State University in 2000 with a degree in landscaping architecture and worked with an engineering firm for four years before being hired by the city.
Her recent shift in duties may be a bit ironic or bittersweet, given that she had worked closely with Hooper.
"I really like Mike," she said. "He's the reason I'm here. He's the one who got me here. Its kind of a bummer deal. Its unfortunate."