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Letsche out as city administrator - City mum on details of departure

Letsche claims departure involuntary

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Tom Letsche is out as city administrator for Cherokee. 
 
Letsche indicated that his departure was not voluntary in nature, but declined to provide additional details or label it a termination.
 
“I don’t want a whole lot of mud slinging with them,” Letsche said in an interview on Wednesday. 
 
The city council held a special meeting on June 27 regarding council hiring practices. Letsche said that was the last council meeting he attended. He also said since then, he has not done any work for the city.
 
Despite repeated requests for comment, city officials have all declined to speak about anything to do with Letsche’s departure. 
 
Letsche told the Chronicle Times that he did not resign, but he did not specifically state whether the city terminated his employment. He declined to explain the reason for his departure, but said there “wasn’t much leading up to it.” The council approved him as city administrator late last November. 
 
The council once again held a closed session on hiring practices at the end of their regular meeting on Tuesday, July 9. 
 
According to Iowa public records law, the council may only close sessions if a member of city staff requests a discussion with the council or if they consider contracts.
 
In other words, Letsche would have had to request that their hiring practices session be closed in order for the closed portion of the meeting to be legal. 
 
Regarding Tuesday’s meeting, Letsche said, “I had nothing to do with that.” 
 
Randy Evans, executive director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council, said that since Letsche did not request a closed meeting on Tuesday, the council did not comply with the open meetings law. An evaluation or discussion of job performance by the city council must come at the request of the employee in question, Evans explained. 
 
Evans also said the law requires the council to still take detailed meeting minutes and save an audio recording of the closed session. Under Iowa law, when a closed session occurs, the council must publicly announce the reason for closing the meeting and record that reason in the minutes.
 
City Clerk Sara Lucas and City Attorney Justin Vondrak declined to say why the council closed Tuesday’s session on hiring practices to the public. The meeting agenda and minutes do not indicate a reason for the closed sessions on June 27 and July 9. 
 
Letsche said that since June 27, he has not been communicating with the city attorney nor any council members. He said he is currently operating as if he no longer works for the city, although he has yet to receive any notice of termination. Letsche said that he is not working another job. He also does not know when or if he will receive any notice of termination from the city. 
 
According to Evans, the city is required to inform Letsche of his official end date and provide documents outlining any termination, separation or severance agreement. 
 
“I don’t have a date,” Letsche said Wednesday. “I don’t really know a whole lot on that.”
 
In order to legitimately terminate Letsche’s employment, the city council is legally required to conduct a public vote. When asked whether the council would have a public vote to determine Letsche’s employment status, Lucas declined to answer.
 
The law requires that the city provide the documented reasons and rationale for their action, whether it be termination or resignation in lieu of termination. As of Wednesday, the city has failed to do so. 
 
The city council is already searching for new candidates to represent Ward 2. The council decided to table their discussion on Letsche's potential replacement on Tuesday because Lucas has not received any applications for the position. 
 
This is a developing story. The Chronicle Times will continue to report new information.
Tom Letsche

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