On Dec. 17, just in time for Christmas, the Damascus City Council voted 6-1 to approve a resolution to a contract amendment and release agreement. It will dramatically increase City Manager Greg Baker’s exit package if or when the time comes. Bill Wehr

It possibly adds more than $275,000 to the current value of his original generous contract.

During this lame duck session, retiring councilors Marlo Dean, Barbara Ledbury and Diana Helm voted “yes” along with returning councilors Randy Shannon, Mary Wescott and Andrew Jackman.

Mayor Steve Spinnett wisely voted no.

Baker earlier filed a legal claim against the city. He said he would “suffer substantial and professional harm if abruptly terminated for political reasons and through no fault of his own.”

There was a serious lack of information given to the citizens that night in reaching this decision.

Why do this now during a lame duck session? Councilors Helm and Wescott both support disincorporation and voted to payout Baker upon disincorporation if it is approved by the voters next November.

If Baker does indeed have a claim against the city, why not proceed and prove it through a full legal process? The city attorney present that night, Ron Guerra, was not prepared to explain the actual cost of this action to the taxpayers, or what would be most cost-effective for the taxpayers.

Guerra did not have the original contract available for comparison purposes, and provided only anecdotal information to explain the principles of the resolution.

Has Baker’s performance been satisfactory, and what is his commitment to the city? There are many questions, including his recent issuing of official trespass warnings against two citizens who expressed their frustrations during council meetings. Those citizens have filed tort claims against the city. What will the city’s financial exposure be?

Baker has only been on the job since July 2012. He is from Kansas City, and there appears to be no evidence that he’s taken any steps to move his family here. The new contract may encourage him to leave when faced with a difficult situation.

Also, that night the council voted to strip the mayor’s authority for setting the meeting agendas with the city manager, giving that responsibility to the city manager.

The city’s January newsletter, which would include the mayor and councilors’ columns, was recently canceled. There is no indication that councilors will have a column in the future for communicating with the citizens.

All this against the backdrop of a comprehensive plan vote and a conflicting disincorporation initiative planned for the ballot in November of next year.

The Dec. 17 council meeting can be viewed on the city website under “videos.” At about 1:13 into the video the contract discussion starts (

View the original contract: archives City Council meeting June 4, 2012, packet pages 28-38.

View the resolution: archives City Council meeting Dec. 17, 2012, packet pages 102-107.

Bill Wehr is a Damascus City Councilor-elect.

Contract Publishing

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