The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

December 21, 2013

Council members: Farwell created wording for resignation request

By Katie Dahlstrom
Assistant Editor

---- — CLINTON — Clinton City Council members have confirmed that City Attorney Jeff Farwell provided one council member with a letter detailing how she could ask for his resignation and how much his payout could be the night the request was made. 

At-large Councilman John Rowland supplied the Clinton Herald on Friday with a copy of a letter At-large Councilwoman Jennifer Graf received from Farwell the night the council met Dec. 10, when she made a motion for Farwell to resign. 

The letter has no heading or signature and Farwell was not available to confirm he wrote it, but Graf confirmed Farwell gave it to her before the Committee of the Whole meeting and his performance evaluation review started. 

It wasn't the letter that sparked her to ask for Farwell's resignation that night, Graf told the Herald, but it did provide her guidance how to proceed.

"I made the motion based on a conversation I had with Jeff," Graf said. "He provided me with the framework to make the motion that would cover the point and purpose and option available to let him leave the position." 

The City Attorney evaluation that night was supposed to be led by human resource consultant Paul Greufe, who did not show up for the meeting. Greufe's absence led to Graf making the motions for Farwell's resignation and severance, she said. 

Before the meeting, Farwell had seen his reviews the council completed. He earned an average rating, with council member remarks ranging from touting Farwell's performance to disparaging him. 

Although he could have requested the review take place in closed session, Farwell asked it remain open, which is what the letter indicates he would do. 

In the letter, "a council person" is informed, he or she "could" make a motion asking for Farwell's resignation.

Graf read the motion verbatim as it appeared on the letter: "I make a motion that given the turnover of elected officials for the city of Clinton that the new council should be entitled to have the legal representation of their own choosing. I would therefore make the recommendation that the city attorney tender his resignation." 

The letter goes on to say, "I (meaning Farwell) would then state that I understand the argument for the new council choosing their own attorney and agree. I would therefore at the recommendation of the council tender my resignation." 

Farwell did just that during the meeting, explaining that when he was hired in 2010 there was some turnover in the council.

The letter adds the date of Farwell's resignation would be Jan. 2, to coincide with the swearing in of the new council. It also addresses the council's options for severance Farwell could be offered. 

"My contract states three months of severance pay, but the council is free to offer anything it wishes. Jeff Horne received six months of severance pay and six months of health insurance," the letter reads. 

During the Dec. 10 meeting, Graf suggested a six-month severance, alluding to Horne's contract.

If Farwell had voluntarily resigned without the council asking for his resignation, his contract calls for no severance. 

Graf added the council knew Farwell's resignation would be asked for during the meeting based on previous meetings. 

"The writing was on the wall. I don't know how anyone could attend a council meeting without seeing it coming," she said.

In one contentious instance surrounding the hiring of a new city administrator in May, Farwell slammed the door of the council chambers into the wall as he exited the room to find answers to a legal question. 

The council Friday morning accepted Farwell's resignation, giving him a $56,000 severance package of six month's salary and health insurance effective Jan. 2.