AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — Amarillo City Council voted unanimously during a special meeting on Wednesday to approve a separation agreement between the City and former City Manager Jared Miller.
The Amarillo City Council did not share specific reasons for parting with Miller, but Mayor Cole Stanley said both parties chose to walk away. The separation agreement noted that Miller was terminated “without cause.”
“This is a performance issue. This is an alignment and a vision issue,” said Stanley. “This is two different parties struggling to go together and what we’ve got to do, is we’ve got to get this right for our citizens.”
“This was not a knee-jerk reaction. We’ve been in office about three, three-and-a-half months now, and we just needed the separation to go the direction that the city council wanted to go and we’re working for the citizens of Amarillo,” said Amarillo City Councilmember for Place 3, Tom Scherlen.
Stanley said an issue that existed under the previous council was reduced trash pickup because of a staff shortage in the City’s solid waste department.
“For 12 months, we knew that we had a short staffing issue in those CDL drivers, and we continued to fall further and further behind,” Stanley said. “That’s an example of previous council, feeling like that management style was okay and current council, knowing that that’s not the right type of management style.”
He continued, “What you’re seeing with this council is very hands-on. We are going to be around, we’re going to be in the budget, and we want to work with you and that’s going to require a hands-on city manager that, you know, can’t take his hands off and let it go months and months on end. And then what we saw was the result was, ‘We’ll just reduce service.’ That’s not an answer that we can accept.”
Despite feeling like they are going in opposite directions, council members and Miller said they have approached these talks and the finalization of the separation agreement with respect, dignity, and professionalism.
“I love this community, I love this team, and I think council’s in the same place,” Miller said. “So we wanted to make sure that whatever we did if we’re going to do this, let’s do it in a way that maintains the community’s ability to have confidence in the organization and in council, and maintains the organization’s ability to continue serving the citizens, and to continue being an effective tool to accomplish a whole lot of goals that are very challenging, all of them.”
When asked if he was caught by surprise, Miller said, “This is part of city management. So if you are a city manager, and you’re surprised ever that this happens, then you just haven’t been around long enough.”
Stanley said the City of Amarillo will honor the previous council’s April 2023 contract with Jared Miller.
MyHighPlains.com obtained a copy of the August 23, 2023 separation agreement between the City of Amarillo and Miller, which says that because he was terminated without cause, he will receive: 1) a lump sum severance payment of $633,726.16 on January 4, 2024, 2) a lump sum of $97,134.59 in lieu of the 90-day notice period by September 12, 2023, and 3) a lump sum payment for unpaid salary, benefits, and reimbursements earned through the day of separation, within six days of the separation.
When talking about the separation agreement and payout, Stanley said: “We had an opportunity to we could have rejected that and it would have ended in litigation. And that is not what’s best for the city.”
“None of your tax dollars are affected. It’s your water and sewer enterprise fund that gets affected,” Stanley said. “So really, what we’re saying there is, we’re going to have to not get to a certain CIP project or an infrastructure upgrade, or, you know, a new pipeline, a new water line, something like that will move down the list…”
On Wednesday, Stanley also said Assistant City Manager Andrew Freeman will be the acting city manager in the interim.
“We want him to have everything that he needs to lead this team and we want him to know that he has our full confidence and backing and support,” said Stanley. “And at the same time, we’re also going to have a discussion that allows for us to look and see, is there anything else that would be better for the city and for this organization?”
He said they will conduct a thorough search for Amarillo’s next city manager.
“It’s not the most attractive thing to step into when you have a full council that can be ousted in one two-year term and we face that here in a little more than a year-and-a-half, and so this is a unique position for anybody to try to want to come take on,” he continued. “The pay scale is very high. So we have a large budget so that’s going to attract good applicants, but we have had turnover.”