The Middletown City Council has begun the process of terminating City Manager, and many in the community reacted with surprise as the news spread on Wednesday.
Middletown City Council, following an hour-long executive session at their Tuesday night meeting, unanimously voted to begin the termination of Adkins.
As a result of the preliminary resolution that went into immediate effect Tuesday night, Adkins was suspended with pay pending final resolution.
The city charter gives Adkins 30 days to submit a written response or request a public hearing. Adkins may reply in writing and request a public hearing, which must be held between 20 and 30 days from his request. After a public hearing or consideration of his written response, council will vote on a final resolution to terminate Adkins.
In the resolution, council said it was commencing the process as it “no longer desires to employ Douglas Adkins as City Manager because of irreconcilable differences between Council and Mr. Adkins concerning leadership style, and these differences make his continued work as City Manager untenable.”
Pending the selection of a new city manager, council appointed Susan Cohen, city administrative services director, as the acting city manager.
Adkins’ current contract expires in July 2020, and his annual salary is $165,000.
Tuesday’s action was the latest by council related to Adkins. Council members required Adkins to make a public apology three weeks ago for an outburst at a downtown coffee shop on Oct. 2. They also gave Adkins a one-day unpaid suspension.
When contacted by the Journal-News on Tuesday night, Adkins, 56, declined to comment.
He was hired in September 2005 as an assistant city prosecutor. He eventually was promoted to city prosecutor and community redevelopment director before becoming city manager in June, 2014.
Downtown entrepreneur Adriane Scherrer said she and Adkins didn’t always agree, but they agreed to disagree and he listened to what she had to say.
“But he had a multi-point program and he stayed with it,” she said. “I’ll always have his back. That’s how I feel about it.”
Scherrer said Adkins made things happen, including paving, was data-driven and knew about the town needs, which led to programs such as the Heroin Summits that rallied community efforts to address the opioid epidemic that gripped the city.
Pastor Lamar Ferrell from Berachah Church said before Adkins was hired, Ferrell told him, “God has a plan for you and you will be a great city manager.”
In the five years since, Adkins has fulfilled that prophecy, Ferrell said.
“His passion and desire moved this city forward,” Ferrell said. “We accomplished great things under his leadership. He brought our city a long, long way.”
With asked about what he wants to see in the next city manager, Ferrell said the person must attract businesses and jobs.
“And I’m not taking about $4-an-hour jobs either,” he said. “We got to be really creative.”
Resident Merrell Wood said Adkins’ departure “will be a loss to the city.”
“It’s unfortunate as I see him as a fine man and a fine city manager,” Wood said. “He worked his way up and was effective and efficient.”
Middletown Fire Chief Paul Lolli said he hadno comment regarding the Adkins situation.
Bill Becker, former police chief and city manager, said he was “surprised they (council) did this on an election night” and that Adkins did not resign.
“There were some things he did a good job on and there were other things I disagreed with,” Becker said. “They both need to move forward, and the new council will have to start working together.
“It’s a tough job when you have council support and it’s worse when you don’t. I wish him well.”
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Former city manager Judy Gilleland, Adkins’ predecessor, declined to comment on the pending termination. Gilleland retired as Middletown’s city manager is now the city manager of Germantown.
Traci Barnett, executive director of the Middletown Community Foundation, said the organization tries “not to be political,” so she didn’t want to comment.
United Way Executive Director Terry Scherrer said he was “shocked” to hear about Adkins, but he didn’t want to comment further.
Whatever happens, Scherrer said, he hopes when the issue is resolved it will be “for the betterment of Middletown.”
Sam Ashworth, local historian and Gilleland’s husband, said he was surprised as well.
“I had no idea anything was in the works,” he said. “It was a total surprise when I read it today. I thought when he made the apology and served the one-day suspension that would be the end of it.”
He said Adkins did a good job but there is a lot of credit to go around as many people have returned to Middletown and have invested in businesses in the city.
Jeff Payne, Downtown Middletown Inc. executive director, said he heard about the council decision on Wednesday.
“We need to have someone to work with because we want to keep moving forward,” he said. “Downtown is important to the growth of the community.”
MIDDLETOWN CITY CHARTER
SECTION 4. REMOVAL OF CITY MANAGER.
City Council shall appoint the City Manager for an indefinite term and may remove him by a majority vote of its members. At least thirty days before such removal shall become effective, City Council shall by a majority vote of its members adopt a preliminary resolution stating the reasons for his removal. The Manager may reply in writing and may request a public hearing, which shall be held not earlier than twenty days nor later than thirty days after the filing of such request. After such public hearing, if one is requested, and after full consideration, City Council by a majority vote of its members may adopt a final resolution of removal. By the preliminary resolution City Council may suspend the Manager from duty, but shall in any case cause to be paid him forthwith any unpaid balance of his salary and his salary for the next three calendar months following adoption of the preliminary resolution.