The Dayton City Council unanimously voted to discharge City Administrator Samantha Orduno during a special meeting called Friday, May 31. Her employment termination was effective immediately. She will be paid termination benefits as outlined in her employment agreement.
The announcement came after the council closed the special meeting pursuant to MN Statute 13D.05, subdivision 3(b). The purpose of the closed session was for discussion with the city’s special counsel, Pam VanderWiel, regarding a threat of litigation regarding an employment issue. VanderWiel is an attorney with Everett & VanderWiel.
The council provided Orduno with notice in February that her current five-year contract would not auto-renew in September, when it was due to expire. At the time of their decision to discharge her, the council hadn’t reached an agreement in regards to Orduno’s contract.
Councilor Anne Ziebell made the motion to terminate Orduno. It was followed by a 5-0 vote.
“This has been and will continue to be a busy time for the city with the Sundance Woods development project and the Brockton Interchange,” said Ziebell. “I believe the council and our hard working city staff would all benefit with a decision one way or another in regard to the city administrator position.”
Ziebell said they all need to work collaboratively when making the tough decisions that will benefit the residents of Dayton.
“It is critical that the council have predictability and continuity sooner rather than later,” she said. “I don’t believe in keeping on an administrator who will leave us in four months advances that goal. Therefore, it is my recommendation that we begin the process to hire a new city administrator as soon as possible.”
Orduno was employed as an at-will employee meaning she could be terminated with or without reason. Outside of Ziebell’s statement, no additional reason was provided for the discharge.
“The decision was no reflection on her,” said Mayor Tim McNeil who also wished Orduno luck. Earlier this year McNeil referenced the city’s financial concerns when he said the city cannot afford Orduno.
Orduno served as Dayton’s city administrator for eight years beginning in 2005. A healthy workplace initiative committee was formed after results of the employee concerns over Orduno’s management style were revealed on a 2010 survey. Nola Lynch, of AFSCME-MN Council 5, AFL-CIO, sought to address these concerns with Orduno and the council. However, the issue was not publicly addressed in subsequent council meetings since 2011.
Beginning in 1999, Orduno spent five years as city manager in Richfield before resigning near the end of 2004. Orduno also served as a city manager for the City of Carpinteria, Calif., from 1995 to 1999. Between 1984 and 1995 she held administrative positions in Mounds View, New Brighton and Fridley.
“I’m still just processing this information and do not have any comment at this time. I will at a later time,” Orduno said.
The council appointed City Clerk Sandra Borders as the acting City Administrator and authorized McNeil to being the search for an interim city administrator.
According to McNeil, the council was set to review a list of viable interim city administrator candidates from a list provided by the League of Minnesota Cities. A special meeting was called for Wednesday, June 5, where McNeil expected the council to interview a potential interim candidate who would assist the city in the search for a new permanent city administrator.
ORDUNO’S TERMINATION BENEFITS
According to Samantha Orduno’s contract, the section on termination benefits states she is eligible to receive the employee benefits for six months following termination, which includes salary, insurance, accrued vacation and a portion of accrued sick leave.
The original contract dated Sept. 12, 2005 stipulated an accrual of 14 vacation days upon first day of employment and accrual and accumulation of vacation leave at the maximum level provide by the city’s personnel policies. Employee termination severance for sick leave was identified to be paid at 1/3 of accrued sick leave. However, as a result of council action at a special meeting called Dec. 31, 2012 an amendment to Orduno’s contract was authorized by the council and agreed to by Orduno. It states since Jan. 1, 2009, Orduno has accrued and accumulated 25 days of vacation leave per year. This is the figure she is now eligible for in her termination benefits. Additionally, the termination benefits section was amended changing a payout of 1/2 of accrued sick leave versus the original 1/3 accrual of sick leave.
Contact Mindy Mateuszczyk at [email protected]