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Montevideo, city manager part ways

MONTEVIDEO -- The city of Montevideo and City Manager Steve Jones are parting ways. City Council members at their meeting Monday approved two agreements with Jones. The first, described by City Attorney Jan Nelson as a retirement through resignat...

Tribune file photo Montevideo City Manager Steve Jones, left, and Assistant City Manager Angie Steinbach are shown in this Tribune file photo as they prepared the city to host the first Governor's Pheasant Opener in 2011. Jones has agreed to resign, and Steinbach will serve as interim city manager until she leaves in January to become Yellow Medicine County administrator.
Tribune file photo Montevideo City Manager Steve Jones, left, and Assistant City Manager Angie Steinbach are shown in this Tribune file photo as they prepared the city to host the first Governor's Pheasant Opener in 2011. Jones has agreed to resign, and Steinbach will serve as interim city manager until she leaves in January to become Yellow Medicine County administrator.

MONTEVIDEO - The city of Montevideo and City Manager Steve Jones are parting ways.

City Council members at their meeting Monday approved two agreements with Jones.

The first, described by City Attorney Jan Nelson as a retirement through resignation, is a retirement agreement and release of all claims between the two. The unanimous vote to accept the agreement ends Jones' role as city manager effective Dec. 7.

It requires the city to pay him approximately one-half year's wages, or $64,215.36, along with accrued vacation of $18,001.26, unused sick leave of $14,411 and a retirement plan contribution of $6,614.18.

The second agreement, approved with council president Marv Garbe casting the lone vote against it, hires the former city manager as an independent contractor to continue working on the flood levee project on behalf of the city. The city will pay Jones $6,500 a month for each of the next six months to continue the work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to make possible a bid-letting late next year for the final phase of the levee project.

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Terms of the retirement agreement require that neither side say anything disparaging about the other. Council members said after the meeting that they could not comment on what led to the resignation. During the meeting, Garbe pointed out that the retirement agreement was contingent on the council's approval of the independent contractor agreement.

Jones was not at the meeting. He is on vacation, according to the city attorney. She told council members that he has signed the separation agreement.

The parting comes after a closed meeting on Oct. 30 between council members and Jones, and more recently, a young woman's allegations that Police Chief Adam Christopher had sent her messages that became sexual in content. The district court approved a harassment restraining order requested by the woman; Christopher has asked for a court hearing challenging it. The city is investigating the allegations against the chief. He is currently on medical leave.

The woman was in the audience for Monday's council meeting, but did not address the council.

Jones' departure comes unexpectedly. After the closed session between Jones and council members just over one month ago, the council members instructed Jones and Assistant City Manager Angie Steinbach to develop a succession plan for her to become city manager.

Jones, who is 63, said at the time that he wanted to continue as city manager for three more years. Steinbach recently accepted an offer from Yellow Medicine County to serve as county administrator, a role she will start Jan. 6.

Steinbach will serve as interim city manager through December. She told council members Monday that she will work with the Minnesota League of Cities to assist them in finding an interim manager for the start of next year.

Council members also approved a recommendation by Garbe that Steinbach be compensated for her duties as interim manager at the wage scale paid Jones.

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While most council members were mum about the separation with Jones, outgoing Mayor Debra Lee Fader said she wanted to thank Jones for his years of service to the city.

"He has done a sensational job for the city and we owe him a debt of gratitude. That's my feeling. I want to thank you, Steve, for what you have done for this town,'' Fader said.

Jones began his service with the city in 1998. Reached by phone on Tuesday, Jones said it's been a pleasure working for the city.

"They have excellent staff, the citizens have been kind and we've had city councils that cared.''

Jones said he's been a city manager for over 30 years, 20 of them in Montevideo, where the average stay for a city manager was for three years.

"But there is a season for everything and it is time to move on,'' he said.

He acknowledged that he had hoped to continue but said he "firmly believes" the council has the right to the leadership it wants. Jones said he intends to remain in Montevideo and continue to be active in it.

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