Cleveland City Council calls for termination of city secretary

Cleveland Councilwoman Carolyn McWaters addresses former City Secretary Teralyn May at Tuesday night's city council meeting. May was terminated after several councilmembers expressed their frustration with her job performance and decision to fire the deputy city secretary. Left to right are McWaters, Mayor Pro tem Marilyn Clay, Councilman Eddie Lowery, May and Mayor Richard Boyett.

After less than six months on the job, Cleveland City Secretary Teralyn May was terminated at Tuesday night’s Cleveland City Council meeting. In a surprise move, Council unanimously voted to have May removed from her duties and to begin the process of finding another city secretary.

May’s termination came at the end of the meeting following an executive session that included discussion of her duties and responsibilities as city secretary, as well as the duties and responsibilities of City Manager Scott Swigert, and the new director of Development Services, Adam Artimez.

As is their right in such matters as city employees, Artimez and May both opted to have all discussions with Council in the public view. Artimez was asked a few questions about his job duties by Councilwoman Carolyn McWaters. Then, just as the meeting appeared at an end, Councilman Eddie Lowery made a motion to direct the city manager to terminate May. After a long pause, McWaters seconded that motion.

May then addressed Council and said, “I wish that if there had been an issue, and it was actually brought to my attention. Each one I’ve asked said, ‘No, no, no.’ I am not aware of having done anything illegal, improper, what have you.”

McWaters told May that she has repeatedly asked for changes in the packets that are given to council members prior to meetings, that she didn’t get a response from May, and nothing changed. Specifically, McWaters told May she needs cover letters in the council packets to make the information easier for councilmembers to find and understand. The cover letters have been a standard practice in the agenda packets for years.

Responding to McWaters, May said, “I understand that is a preference and I understand that is a convenience, but I don’t think y’all understand just how much time it takes. At that last meeting, when I had a deputy secretary in place, I had to attend a required-by-law training, and I asked her to make sure they were made for you, and was informed that she would indeed make sure they were made for you. I realize that my impression of your impression of this position is all I have to do is make agendas and organize meetings, but that is 5 percent.”

McWaters then complained of Council not being provided with minutes of previous meetings in a timely manner.

Some of the frustration with May centered on her termination of the deputy city secretary, who had worked for the city for nearly four years. The termination came right before Christmas, which some councilmembers said was a callous move that could have taken place after the holidays.

May claims the deputy city secretary was terminated because she was not performing her job duties.

“For the record, it was by no means quick, or opinion, or any of that involved. Every single step of that process was black and white. I followed every bit of the City’s rules and regulations, including the city manager, attorney, the entire process. Had there been questions from Council on that, it would have been great if someone would have asked me,” she said.

May admitted that the timing of termination of the deputy city secretary was “less than great,” but believes she was justified.

Councilman Fred Terrell reminded May that she also had been written up when interim City Manager Robert Reynolds was leading the city, and that it was left unresolved due to the shift from Reynolds to the new city manager. He asked May if she had worked to train the deputy city secretary as she was new in that role and reminded her that the previous city secretary had no issues with the deputy city secretary’s job performance.

“I just don’t think you are a good fit for the city,” Terrell said.

Mayor Richard Boyett, who does not vote on most council decisions unless a swing vote is needed, did not vote regarding May’s termination. However, Boyett told Council he believed that the city manager should make decisions on whether or not termination of city employees is necessary. He asked Swigert if he felt May should be terminated.

“She has been a hard worker. She is doing the best she can. She is learning in the position. She has only been here since July. She has been dedicated to the City and she has not done anything in her position or responsibilities that would merit termination,” Swigert said.

Swigert said that May was still within her six-month probation period, which could be extended if Council felt it was necessary.

In the end, Council was unmoved by May’s explanation and voted unanimously for her termination.

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