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Studebaker explains decision to swap interim city managers

Late last week, Mayor Kent Studebaker provided a few more details about how he chose Tom Coffee to serve as interim city manager while the council works to recruit a permanent replacement for the job.

StudebakerHe said he met Coffee in July when the two were attending meetings of the Lake Oswego Citizens Action League, a political action committee that supported Studebaker’s campaign leading up to the November election. LOCAL also endorsed Karen Bowerman and Skip O’Neill, who won seats on the city council, and Dan Williams, who didn’t get elected.

Asked how he came to consider Coffee for the city manager job, Studebaker said, “He gave us some input on campaign issues. He was always knowledgable. He was about as unbiased in terms of evaluation of things as anybody I had met. I thought, you know, when the possibility came up, it seemed like a good idea.”

Studebaker said the conversation didn’t happen until after the election: “The proposal came up — maybe he’d be a good person to be interim city manager.”by: VERN UYETAKE - Tom Coffee

Studebaker said he didn’t remember who made the proposal but acknowledged he, like many elected officials, regularly meets with certain citizens and political advisers — “the people who helped me on the campaign.”

“It’s like any other election,” Studebaker said. “If there’s going to be some changes, there are people that help the elected officials figure out who’s available and give advice on who’s available.”

He said he feels council members who acted like they were left out of the decision misled the public. If he could go back in time, he said, there’s nothing he would have done differently, aside from maybe making it more clear that he had told all council members of his plan to hire Coffee the week before the idea became public.

“I don’t know how to be more transparent,” Studebaker said.

Coffee assumed the city manager’s position at 8 a.m. Jan. 16, the morning after the council voted to hire him. The city will pay him $15,000 monthly through July 12, with an option to extend his contract on a monthly basis for six months after that.

Studebaker said he and Coffee had met informally and agreed on the $15,000 monthly salary after considering the earnings of David Donaldson, who was serving in the interim position but has since returned to his previous job as assistant city manager. That included Donaldson’s salary along with other benefits — the “total package” — Studebaker said.

Donaldson’s pay rose from about $136,000 to about $150,000 annually when he took the city manager position on a short-term basis last year. He also received monthly $500 contributions to a deferred compensation plan and an extra week of paid vacation.

Coffee is not receiving health insurance or contributions toward retirement pay. Studebaker said, “It’s pretty basic.”

Coffee has lived in Lake Oswego since 1991, when he moved here to work for the city. He held the positions of planning director, community development director and assistant city manager over the next decade, retiring in January 2001. He receives about $5,000 monthly from the state public employees retirement system, he said.

He came out of retirement a few times since leaving Lake Oswego City Hall, working from 2001 to 2002 as a consultant helping West Linn fight potential urbanization the Stafford area, as community development director for the city of Tigard from late 2005 to early 2009, and again as a Stafford consultant for West Linn from 2009 to 2010.

He lives in the Holly Orchard area of Lake Oswego with his wife, Kelly Paige, and their two corgis, one of which is a corgi-chow mix, or “chorgi.”



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  • 29 Aug 2014

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