Monday, January 24, 2011

ASHLAND CITY MANAGER: Resigns after rocky tenure -- then rehired with raise!

COLUMBIA, 1/23/11  (Beat Byte) --  After a rocky tenure that included a failed sales tax vote, problems with the police force, and criticism for residing in Jefferson City, Ashland city administrator Chris Heard has resigned effective January 31.    
But in an unusual move, the Ashland Board of Aldermen agreed to rehire Heard, this time as a "project consultant" for six months after his resignation, the Boone County Journal reports.  
Even more unusual:  Heard -- who presently earns $59,138 annually -- said his new contract includes a 1% pay raise and the same benefits he received as city manager. 
About 15 miles south of Columbia, Ashland is home to many residents who work in Columbia or Jefferson City.
Two closed Ashland Board of Aldermen sessions earlier this month held townsfolk in suspense, with speculation that Heard might not receive a contract renewal.  Though Heard will no longer function as city administrator, Ashland Mayor Mike Jackson told the Journal that Heard had been involved in too many contracts to completely cut his employment ties.   
Under Heard's watch, Ashland police officer Scott Wilson was arrested for driving drunk in 2009 and Ashland reserve police officer Monique Lewis filed suit against the city for gender discrimination late last year.  In May 2010, roughly 50 people demanded Heard's resignation at a meeting of the Board of Aldermen.
"A series of local business owners spoke out against Heard as the cause of the inhospitable atmosphere," wrote Boone County Journal reporter Cassandra Leap.  "Local builder Cory Myers presented a petition for Heard’s 'immediate release,' including about 40 signatures from local business owners and individual residents.  The petition describes Heard as 'unapproachable, condescending and displays an air of pompous arrogance.'" 
Nonetheless, Ashland city attorney David Bandre said he felt Heard was "doing a fine job."   
Forum posts on the city's nearly year-old muckraking board, Wake Up Ashland, paint an unfavorable picture.
"Finally the city has exorcised its demon, Chris Heard," one poster writes.   Another left a poem that begins,
"A few years ago at Christmas, a man named Chris came to town.
Only later did we realize he was not a savior, but merely a clown."
"The town has had enough of his agenda, and his deaf ear,
and to him and his cronies, the town says enjoy your last year."

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