Mill Creek City Council Fires Its City Manager

MILL CREEK - In a move that has angered and mystified some residents of this community, including its mayor, the City Council last night booted out its city manager.

In a special meeting called after days of rumors about personnel problems and closed-door meetings, a divided council voted 4-3 to accept the resignation of John Sims, city manager since 1992.

The council members who voted for Sims' resignation declined to comment, saying it was an executive-session matter and, as such, was confidential.

"Now it's time to move on and focus on the future," Councilwoman Pam Pruitt told 30 local residents who turned out for the meeting, many of whom testified before the vote that Sims was doing a great job and that they were baffled by his forced resignation and disgusted by the lack of openness.

"You're talking about getting rid of the No. 1 employee of the city," Sal Leone told the council before the vote. "If he's done something wrong, tell us."

Councilwoman Kathy Nielsen, who voted for Sims' resignation, would say only that she was "voting on management" and not on personality differences.

Pruitt suggested the "fit wasn't right."

"Let's just let the guy move on," she said, adding that "there's nothing to be gained" by discussing the reasons why Sims was forced to resign.

Sims, 41, said there had been tension for some time with the council over the proper role of a city council in a city-manager form of government.

"I don't think there's a consensus," he said.

Sims said the average city manager stays with a city less than four years, now.

"It's a tough business," he said. "We're here to make business recommendations to the City Council that then takes our decisions and tempers them with the political realities of the environment."

Councilman Dave Winecoff warned his colleagues that they were "making a serious mistake," saying Sims was "the first city manager I've really been impressed with."

Mayor Tim Austin called Sims a skilled administrator who was a victim of a power play.

"Pam Pruitt has been attempting to orchestrate this for over a year, and she finally could count to four," Austin said.

"If you ask me why John Sims was fired, I couldn't give you one."

Austin said Pruitt, who used to be Mill Creek's mayor, got overly involved in administrative details.

"The issue is about the future of Mill Creek," Pruitt said. "People trust me to weigh all the issues. I'm never going to betray that trust."

Sims, who was appointed by the City Council in 1992, made $65,780 a year as city manager. He came to Mill Creek from Clarkston, Asotin County, where he had been city administrator.

Sims said he didn't know what his next move would be but that he planned to take time off to be with his family.