CROCKER, Mo. (Feb. 7, 2009) — Joyce Peterson, who has served about six years as Crocker’s city administrator and before that for about two decades as city clerk, received a termination notice Friday evening.
Mayor Jim Morgan confirmed Saturday that Crocker police and two county deputies went to Peterson’s home at 7 p.m. Friday to deliver paperwork with formal notice of that action.
Paper service is a routine part of police work and officials with both law enforcement agencies verified that they were not notified of the contents of the packet produced by the city council and delivered to Peterson’s home.
Peterson’s situation has generated considerable anger from some area residents. Recent city council meetings have been packed with people; police have had to keep the peace and on one occasion, Police Chief Robert Ishmael ordered the building cleared after threats of physical violence.
The city council met for more than three hours Wednesday night but didn’t announce any decisions. After the council returned to open session, Morgan’s only comment was that decisions would be made within 72 hours.
The Crocker City Council is scheduled to meet at 6 p.m. Monday, but Peterson’s situation isn’t on the agenda and Morgan said he didn’t know if it would be discussed.
“I just hope that this situation can be resolved without any further problems,” Morgan said.
Peterson’s job will not be filled, he said, and day-to-day city services will not be affected or interrupted.
“There will be no longer a city administrator,” Morgan said. “I think the city will still function as it has in the past without any problems.”
Peterson has retained former St. Robert city attorney Tyce Smith, who wrote the city administrator ordinance that is used by Crocker. Contacted Saturday at her home, Peterson declined comment pending legal review of the documents she received Friday night.
After a year of public turmoil over serious budget shortfalls and repeated closed sessions for unspecified personnel matters, Peterson said Thursday afternoon that she’s now ready to retire if the aldermen will permit her to reach retirement age in November. Being allowed to remain a city employee until January 2010 would help her with insurance issues, Peterson said, since she’ll be eligible for Medicare at that time.
Smith said Wednesday night that based on the ordinance he wrote, Peterson is guaranteed two months’ severance pay plus accrued vacation pay and sick leave, and the rules apply even if the city council votes to eliminate the position rather than terminate her from it.
“This ordinance is a specialized ordinance that is copied from St. Robert; it basically is an agreement with the city administrator that they have to give her notice and a 30-day public hearing, and then if there is a termination other than for dishonesty or some kind of really bad stuff, then she’s entitled to two month’s severance and they can suspend her with pay only for the time until the hearing,” Smith said following Wednesday night’s city council meeting.