The Casper City Council approved City Manager V.H. McDonald’s expedited retirement and appointed Liz Becher to temporarily fill the position Tuesday night.
Then, some members of the public stood up and said that recent events made them feel embarrassed to say Casper was their home and called on Mayor Kenyne Humphrey to resign or step aside.
After the meeting, Humphrey told reporters she would “think about” resigning. She said that if she didn’t have the support of her fellow Council members, then she would step down.
McDonald had previously said he would retire June 1. But he told Humphrey in a letter dated Monday that he was “receptive” to moving up his retirement date, subject to the City Council’s approval.
Humphrey said that she spoke with McDonald on the phone over the weekend and that McDonald didn’t seem like his usual “chipper self.”
“The conversation just kind of guided us to the point where maybe he was ready and he’s running out of energy,” she said.
Humphrey added that no one reached out to McDonald and asked him to leave his position now, nor did the events of the past week influence his decision to expedite his retirement.
Last week, Councilman Shawn Johnson sent out an email blasting city management for keeping the Council in the dark about morale problems within the police department, which were revealed by a survey released to the public earlier this month. Council members expressed concern about retaliation against officers who took part in the survey, though Chief Jim Wetzel said he’d found no evidence such intimidation was occurring.
Also late last week, two-thirds of Casper police officers voted that they had no confidence in Wetzel’s leadership. Those results were made public Monday.
Johnson took issue with the appointment of Liz Becher as acting city manager because the entirety of Council did not take part in her installment. The Star-Tribune found that no Council members were involved in that decision, despite a city news release that said Council leadership made the appointment. McDonald chose Becher, he and Councilman Charlie Powell said, which is apparently the normal procedure for choosing an acting city manager.
McDonald’s letter does not give a reason for moving up the date. But in another letter, Humphrey and Vice Mayor Ray Pacheco wrote that accelerating McDonald’s retirement will allow the City Council to move forward with replacing him.
“Thank you for being receptive to accelerating your retirement date, which will allow Council to move forward to fill your position as city manager, and to expeditiously appoint an interim city manager until your position can be filled,” Humphrey and Pacheco wrote in a letter dated Monday.
McDonald did not respond to a text message sent Tuesday seeking comment. He was not seen at Tuesday’s meeting.
Humphrey said Becher will serve as “acting interim city manager.”
The mayor added that Becher had said that she didn’t want to become the permanent city manager.
McDonald announced his departure two days after the survey that exposed morale problems at the police department became public. The survey also criticized McDonald and the city’s human resources for not acting when officers brought to their attention the morale and leadership problems at the department.