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Weston Council removes city manager

by Jim Fisher

STAFF WRITER

WESTON -- Weston City Council voted unanimously Monday night to remove City Manager Kyle Totten.

In a separate vote, Council vacated the position of city clerk, naming Dr. John Williams as acting city manager. Council also directed him to advertise for all the city's appointed department head positions. Williams will keep the duties of city clerk until a replacement is found, said Councilman Jim Bandy.

Bandy set a Jan. 1, 2004, deadline for appointing department heads.

Totten, who will remain as operations manager for the Weston Sanitation Department, had little to say Monday.

"This did not surprise me," he said. "They tried it once before but were told they couldn't (because of Totten's contract), and now they're going back to a legal opinion from another attorney in January that says all department heads are at the will and pleasure of Council.

"It's going to be interesting case law," he said.

Totten's status with the city had been a contentious point of debate between Council and Mayor Jon Tucci for months. One faction within city government contended that Totten's hiring by the previous Council and contract with the city were contrary to the newly enacted city charter, which says department heads are appointed on a yearly basis. The other side believes Totten's contract should be honored and the position should enter the yearly rotation of review in 2004.

Moments after removing Totten, Council voted unanimously to rescind approval of the minutes for the Oct. 8 special meeting. That move essentially canceled the actions of the earlier meeting.

That was the session where Council: Removed Becky Swisher as city clerk, making her finance manager; named Williams as clerk; and dissolved the Weston Development Authority.

When asked to clarify Council's action's Monday, City Attorney W.T. Weber III said he would have to "go home and consider it."

The Oct. 8 meeting apparently also has been a hot topic among some Weston residents. During Monday's meeting, resident David Lester attempted to serve Council with a summons related to a lawsuit he has filed in Lewis County Circuit Court regarding that meeting.

Weber refused service of the summons, saying Lester could not serve it himself; all four members of Council tore up their copies. After the meeting, Weber declined to comment about the lawsuit, saying it was "up to Council" how he will proceed.

In addition to the lawsuit, Lester said he filed a petition seeking the ouster of Bandy and Councilwoman Betty Jo Brooks.

"That is my hope, that they will be removed from office, and the hope of the people who signed the petition," Lester said after leaving the meeting. "We felt their actions have not been in the best interest of the Council or the city of Weston.

"Tonight they took actions to make corrective actions, but it's too late," Lester said.

After the meeting, Tucci said Monday was probably his last meeting.

This is the second time in as many months that Tucci has threatened to resign as mayor, although Monday he said "this is for real."

"I've got business interests that I'm more involved in right now," he said. "I've got to move on with my life. This is just too stressful and I don't need this right now."

Tucci said he planned to submit a letter of resignation prior to the next regular meeting, scheduled for Dec. 1.

Staff writer Jim Fisher can be reached at 626-1446 or by e-mail at jfisher@exponent-telegram.com