Dayton Council explores buying out city administrator’s contract

Based on financial constraints, Dayton City Council is expected to part ways with city administrator Samantha Orduno. Mayor Tim McNeil announced at the April 23 council meeting, according to the council’s discussions at an April 6 goal setting work session, the council will be reassessing city staffing levels. SamLeaving

“I suspect the 2014 budget will reflect different staffing levels and staffing pay than it currently does,” said McNeil. However, with union contracts in place, that leaves little wiggle room for making cuts.

“The only non-union position we have is Sam’s,” said McNeil, referring to City Administrator Samantha Orduno. Earlier this year, the council chose not to renew Orduno’s contract, which expires Sept. 20. Orduno has expressed that she is not interested in continuing employment without a new contract in place. Meanwhile, council consensus is that they have no desire to negotiate a contracted position.

“It’s unusual not to have a contract for administrator positions but not unheard of,” said McNeil.

This leaves the council and administrator at an impasse where the only inevitable solution is to consider Orduno’s transition out of the position.

At the city’s April 23 council meeting, McNeil said the city may choose to explore combining the administrator position with another position such as city clerk or finance director. McNeil said they will have conversations with other staff who may be close to retirement age and explore opportunities to combine positions.


He also said they expect to reduce the salary for the newly created position from Orduno’s current salary level. McNeil said Orduno did not express interest in accepting that type of change in the position. Orduno agreed that it would likely not be in her best interest.

“Samantha makes more money [in the administrator position] than any city of our size,” said McNeil. “We can’t afford someone with her skill set. The long range plan is to replace her with someone cheaper.”

McNeil said that if a transition is inevitable, the council might want to consider making it happen as expeditiously as possible, particularly since they are entering the budgeting process for 2014.

“There’s value in replacing her sooner rather than later with someone who will manage the entire budget process,” he said. With the council’s blessing, McNeil has begun discussing the option of buying out Orduno’s contract with her as well as with the League of Minnesota Cities.

The council will have to consider how to transition to new leadership. The three most common avenues are having the council lead an administrator search; hiring an outside firm to conduct the search; or hiring an interim administrator to continue conducting the responsibilities of the job while also leading the search for a permanent administrator. The council hasn’t landed on a finalized plan yet but McNeil is leaning towards the option of seeking an interim administrator. How they will ultimately proceed is a decision that will rest with the full council.

“This is in no way a reflection on Samantha and the work she has done for Dayton,” said McNeil. “Staffing conversations are never fun when looking at tight budgets. We did it two years ago and it was gut-wrenching. We need to determine if we must right-size the city’s finances. It’s a question of what’s the best way to do it.”


Contact Mindy Mateuszczyk at [email protected]