Bethel City Council Fires City Manager Lee Foley

by Ben Matheson on May 12, 2014

Former Bethel City Manager Lee Foley at City Council meeting, 5/12/14. Photo by Ben Matheson, KYUK.

Former Bethel City Manager Lee Foley at City Council meeting, 5/12/14. Photo by Ben Matheson, KYUK.

The Bethel City Council voted unanimously to fire City Manager Lee Foley during a special meeting Monday.

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The termination comes after the 3-month-long investigation conducted by a third party attorney into nepotism, contracts, and personnel issues, among other issues. Council member Mark Springer noted that Foley had done a lot of good for the city.

“However it is the council’s prerogative at any time to terminate the city manager and in light of matters that have come to our attention and that have been given very serious consideration by the council…that why I’m making this motion. And as I’ve said in previous meetings, this is not something we are taking lightly,” said Springer.

Mayor Joe Klejka says there were at lease three contracts that were not sent out for competitive bidding, including the demolition of the old police station. The mayor would not name the other two, but the investigation included examination of city contracts with former finance director Bobby Sutton.

“We’ve not been following Bethel Municipal Code, and as our administrator for the city, [Foley] is the person most responsible for that to occur. It has just not been followed multiple, multiple, multiple times,” said Klejka.

The council confirmed violations within the city related to procurement, nepotism, credit card usage, personnel policies, leave, and travel and training policies. Foley’s son Bo works for the city’s IT department, which violates current city code.

In an interview with the Anchorage Daily News, Foley admitted to using a city credit card for personal business and allowing department heads to do the same before paying back the money.

The termination was effective immediately. Foley has been city manager since July of 2008. Port Director Pete Williams has been the acting city manager since Foley was placed on administrative leave in April.

Foley said in a brief statement to the council that it was an honor serving the city council and that he wishes the best for Bethel.

The council is hoping to hire a human resources director soon, in an effort to ensure personnel policies are followed.

The council passed four motions in the special meeting. One would freeze tuition assistance to city employees until next year. Others would not allow first class travel on city business trips, stop automatic credit card charges, and ensure employees who cash out sick leave and personal time do so according to code.

The city is not releasing the investigation, citing attorney client privilege. KYUK and five other media organizations have submitted a public records request for the investigation.

The council meets in a regular meeting Tuesday at 6:30 at City Hall where they plan to hold a public hearing about proposed increases to water and sewer rates, direct city staff to move ahead with bike path and boardwalk repair and discuss creating a Bing Santamour higher education scholarship.

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