Separation agreement adds details to Fairfield city manager’s resignation

The separation agreement and release signed by Fairfield city officials and former city manager Mark Wendling, who resigned abruptly on Friday, “is the resolution of disputed claims and is not an admission of liability,” according to the document.

Any alleged disputed claims are not included in Wendling’s personnel file provided by the city, and neither side is permitted to talk about the issue, per the agreement.

Wendling had until Dec. 31 to sign a separation agreement hand-delivered to him on Wednesday. He signed the agreement on Friday, ending his nearly 10-year tenure with the city. According to the agreement, Wendling will never seek employment with Butler County’s third-largest municipality. He will also not speak against the city, or file any complaints or legal actions.

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Wendling told the Journal-News last week his departure has “been brewing for a while.”

When asked about any specific “disputed claims” mentioned in the separation agreement, city attorney Steve Wolterman said, “Not that I know of.” He said that is typical boilerplate language in a separation agreement document.

Fairfield City Council members deferred comments to Mayor Steve Miller, who said Wendling is “a class act” who has performed well for the city and “he’ll do a great job” wherever he lands. Wendling said he wasn’t leaving for a new job and enjoyed his time with the city.

The city agreed to pay Wendling a six-month lump sum payment of his salary ($163,991 annually), and an additional $6,000.

Wendling has received regular raises and complementary performance reviews both as assistant city manager and city manager. There are no disciplinary actions in his personnel file provided to the Journal-News.

In the last review as assistant city manager, former city manager Art Pizzano gave Wendling a 4.8 out of 5. Wendling’s last review as city manager was earlier this year, in which he was given a 3.65 out of 5.

In Wendling’s last city manager review, Councilman Tim Abbott wrote that “Mark continues to preform well with (human resources) functions and senior staff turnover,” and acknowledges he “always maintains (a) professional demeanor and is a good motivator to employees.”

He also acknowledged Wendling had a “very solid 2019″ with “many accomplishments.”

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Abbott, the chair of the council’s finance committee, also acknowledged in the review a long-term and short-term public safety plan, and to identify potential cost reductions and develop a strategy for an economic downturn. Wendling was also to focus on public safety and the city’s economic health.

Under Wendling, the city switched to a new health care package, developed new comprehensive and connectivity plans, initiated studies in key areas of the city ― including Ohio 4 and Pleasant Avenue ― created two new tax increment financing districts, and worked with Ambrose Property Group to develop the Fairfield Commerce Park that would attract 600 to 1,000 jobs.

Wendling redeveloped the city’s senior staff, hiring a new assistant city manager and police chief, and directors of Parks and Recreation, Public Works, Development Service, and Finance departments.

Miller said the city will begin looking for a new city manager at the start of the new year, and Fire Chief Don Bennett will serve as acting city manager.

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