After just two months on the job, Cleveland City Manager Stacy Williams was terminated Tuesday night, May 17, in a 3-2 vote by the Cleveland City Council. Williams’ termination is effective immediately, and he was asked to surrender all keys and equipment belonging to the City.
The vote to terminate Williams followed a brief executive session. Williams asked that all discussions about his termination be made in full view of the public, but Council was advised by City Attorney David Olson that they first had to go into executive session. When they returned to the open meeting, the vote was quickly taken to terminate Williams with Councilmembers Eddie Lowery, Danny Lee and Marilyn Clay voting in favor of the measure.
After the vote was taken, Councilwoman Delores Terry raised an objection to the termination. She suggested that the councilmembers were breaking protocol by appointing City Secretary Angela Smith as the interim city manager.
“I knew it. I knew it. Did you announce to the people of Cleveland that you were going to make Angela the city manager? You said that what Carolyn [McWaters], James [Franklin] and I did was illegal, so what are you doing?” Terry said.
Terry was referring to backlash that she and the two other councilmembers received from Mayor Richard Boyett, Clay and Lee after Williams was offered the position of city manager in March despite the job not being posted and without reviewing applications or interviewing other candidates.
In a 3-2 vote in March, Terry, McWaters and Franklin approved a two-year contract with Williams that provided him with an annual salary of $140,000 and a $10,000 annual automobile allowance. The contract also included a clause that stated if Williams was terminated by the Council within the first six months without cause, the City would have to provide him with a cash payment equal to one year of salary or the remainder of the agreement, whichever is the lesser amount.
Mayor Boyett claims the contract was voided because it was determined that it was in violation of the City’s Home Rule Charter, which states:
“The City Manager shall not be appointed for a definite term, but may be removed at the will and pleasure of the City Council by a vote of the majority of the entire Council. The action of the City Council in suspending or removing the City Manager shall be final, it being the intention of this Charter to vest all authority and fix all responsibility for such suspension or removal in the City Council.”
In simplified language, the City, through its charter, is prevented from entering into a contract with a city manager for a two-year term, such as what was offered to Williams. Boyett claims responsibility for the faulty contract lies with City Attorney David Olson of Olson and Olson LLP, the law firm contracted by the City for legal services.
As the Council began to adjourn following the vote, Williams asked to speak but was denied. Above the din of the room, Williams claimed the City violated his right to “due process” by not allowing him to speak. After the meeting, when asked to comment on his termination, Williams declined, speaking instead to the Fox News Houston reporters who showed up for the meeting.
Williams and Boyett have been at odds since he was promoted to City Manager. Williams previously worked as Public Works Director, a job he had held since October 2021. Boyett, in previous meetings, criticized what appeared to be a rush to hire Williams without properly vetting his qualifications or considering other candidates.
“We could argue all day long. But there is one thing: when you don’t even want to post the job. I had three applications given to me that had degrees in accounting, degrees in management, yet we are going to hire a man who has no degree, has no idea what a city manager ought to be,” Boyett said in March. “He thinks he can come into the City of Cleveland now. He has three people against him – me, Danny [Lee] and [Councilwoman] Marilyn [Clay] – and he thinks that’s good. He thinks he has the upper hand. He wants to sign a contract that is going to bind us for two years, paying roughly $350,000 or $400,000 if he doesn’t work out.”
Recently Boyett has been criticized for engaging in a profanity-laced invective directed toward Williams during a visit to city hall, all of which was caught on a body cam worn by a Cleveland police officer. Boyett apologized for his actions at the April city council meeting.
Council shifted in its power structure after the May 7 election. Councilman Lowery, who previously served on council and as a county commissioner, defeated Councilman James Franklin. Councilwoman Delores Terry is also on her way out after she was defeated in the election. The two challengers for her seat – Rachel Hall and Desiree David – will face off in a run-off election on June 18.
Tuesday night’s meeting was the last for Position 6 Councilman Danny Lee, who is leaving due to term limits. His position is also in a run-off between candidates Fred Terrell, who previously served on the Cleveland EDC, and local businessman Mike Doyle.
Early voting for the run-off election will be held on June 6-10, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and June 13-14, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., according to Liberty County Elections Administrator Klint Bush. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on election day at the voting center at Cleveland Civic Center. That location is the only one that will be open for the entire county for the run-off election.