Split vote sends western suburb into political turmoil

The Cornelius City Council voted 3-2 Monday night to fire

City Manager Dave Waffle, sending the city into political turmoil.

The vote followed a long council meeting packed with comments from audience members that urged the council to retain Waffle.

The latest effort to fire Waffle came about on June 2, after Mayor Neal Knight sent him an e-mail stating his refusal to remove the city's general services fee led him to seek Waffle's firing.

Waffle, however, is following the council's direction, which before Knight's latest effort to fire Waffle urged the city to explore reducing the service fee by 11 percent.

Knight, along with city councilors Mari Gottwald and Jamie Minshall voted for that cut in may and again tonight.

But knight says he wants to cut the entire fee, blowing a $500,000 hole in the general fund.

Residents like Trudy houser urged the council to adopt the budget with its 11 percent cut instead of Eliminating the entire fee.

Houser, who lives in a mobile home, said her rent increased when the general services fee was installed by $10. That rent increase won't go away if the council eliminates the fee.

Instead, houser said, the city will be forced to cut city services like police officers.

"What you're going to do is screw us," Houser said. "Screw us over. You're going to hurt this city. You're going to put this city back 20 years."

Dave Schamp, who filed a complaint in January the last time Knight led an effort to oust Waffle, said Knight hasn't identified a professional failure on Waffle's part because it doesn't exist.

"The statements by Mr. Knight make it clear this is a personal issue," Schamp said.

Ralph Brown, former mayor of Cornelius, urged calm. He said he understood Knight's concerns about the services fee, but said the council should focus on other issues.

"Firing the city manager, not passing a budget, that won't bring more jobs to this city," Brown said.

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