Vergennes city manager’s future still up in the air after Friday meeting
VERGENNES — On Friday night the Vergennes City Council held a two-hour closed-door session devoted to the status of City Manager Daniel Hofman, but made no decision.
Hofman’s future in his job remained to be determined after a 40-minute, closed-door city council session on Oct. 13. After the closed session, the council voted that Mayor Lynn Donnelly and Councilor Jill Murray-Killon should speak with Hofman in a meeting that was scheduled for Oct. 15.
After that meeting it was decided that the whole council should talk over the topic on Friday night, Oct. 16.
Another meeting among the mayor, Hofman and Murray-Killon will be held on Monday, according to Donnelly on Saturday. That will be folllowed by another closed council session at 6 p.m. on Wednesday. Donnelly on Saturday told the Independent she expects the undisclosed issue or issues surrounding Hofman’s employment to be resolved at that meeting.
Donnelly previously told the Independent on Wednesday that the Oct. 13 executive session was not related to Hofman’s job performance, although some residents and members of city committees have been critical of him in recent months.
Rather, Donnelly said, it related to an undisclosed “personal issue” that Hofman reported to the council that led him to consider leaving the position he has held since the first of the year. The Albany, N.Y.-area native was 29 when he began working for Vergennes after leaving a similar post in Guyton, Ga.
Donnelly said she revealed all she could about the general nature of the executive session, and the public message after meeting on Tuesday was, “We were exploring his continued employment,” meaning Hofman would be included in ongoing talks.
“There was a discussion about whether he will continue as city manager,” Donnelly told the Independent on Wednesday morning. “And we will be discussing that with him in the next few days.”
A rumor that Hofman had already resigned was not accurate, Donnelly said.
But he is considering moving on?
“That is correct,” Donnelly said.
Hofman declined comment other than he did not believe anything about the executive session should be public.
“What took place in executive session is supposed to stay in executive session per the law. If I were to confirm or deny anything I would be breaking the law,” Hofman said.
The process for resolving Hofman’s future will include the Thursday sit-down with Hofman, Donnelly and Murray-Killon, the mayor said.
“It’s going to be a mutual decision with the council,” Donnelly said, but she and Murray-Killon will have some power to act on the council’s behalf.
Planning Commission Chairman Shannon Haggett and Recreation Committee Chairman Tim Cook in July both sent letters to the council critical of Hofman’s leadership. Cook’s letter also cited a “whistleblower letter” sent to the council by a city pool employee criticizing Hofman. Some residents have also questioned his role in the controversial July 16 council meeting.
Hofman has gotten generally high marks for his budgeting acumen, helping to organize a regional COVID-19 response early during the pandemic, and coming up with a long-range plan to finance a city sewer system rebuild.
But Donnelly said Hofman’s job performance will not be an issue on the table.
“Obviously he’s been in a very tough position. And for personal reasons he wants to move on. And it’s a decision whether the council is ready for that or not,” she said. “I need to talk to Daniel. There was a discussion. And two of us, Jill Murray-Killon and I, are meeting with Daniel privately to discuss his future.”
While a follow-up council meeting is possible, Donnelly said it could hinge on how Thursday’s meeting with Hofman goes.
“It depends on how the process goes when we talk to him,” Donnelly said. “We may have to call a special meeting. Although we were given last night a lot of leeway to make that decision, the two of us, or the three of us, with Daniel.”
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