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Granite Shoals city manager fired

Granite Shoals City Manager Jeff Looney fired

Granite Shoals City Manager Jeff Looney (left) prepares to leave Council Chambers after the City Council voted to terminate his contract at its regular meeting June 14. At the council dais are Granite Shoals City Attorney Joshua Katz, councilors Ron Munos and Aaron Garcia, Mayor Will Skinner, and councilors Samantha Ortis, Eddie McCoy, and Phil Ort. Staff photo by Dakota Morrissiey

Granite Shoals City Manager Jeff Looney lost his job after the City Council voted to terminate his contract at its regular meeting Tuesday, June 14. The termination came as the result of disciplinary action for Looney’s professional conduct and continuing conflict with Councilor Samantha Ortis that stretched back to February of this year.

After an executive session that lasted over an hour and a half, the council emerged and Councilor Phil Ort moved to terminate Looney’s contract. Ortis seconded the motion, and Mayor Will Skinner took a roll call vote. With the exception of Councilor Steve Hougen, who was absent and unable to connect through Zoom at the time, all members of the council voted for the termination.

The City Council first met to evaluate Looney’s conduct and performance at a special meeting called on Feb. 1. The meeting resulted in no disciplinary action, but Looney read aloud a letter during open session, defending himself and claiming he was the target of a “witch hunt.” The letter referenced recent friction between himself and Ortis inside and outside of City Hall. 

Ortis claimed in her remarks and a written response the day after that meeting that several unnamed city employees had come to council members complaining of Looney’s treatment of them. 

“They’re afraid to file formal grievances because of the threat from Mr. Looney of retaliation,” Ortis said. “These employees are fearful of their jobs and are upset.”

At a regular meeting on May 10, the council voted to form a disciplinary committee to determine whether action should be taken against Looney for unprofessional conduct. The committee consisted of Mayor Skinner, Ortis, Looney, and Councilor Eddie McCoy. Another goal of the committee was to attempt reconciliation between Looney and Ortis to avoid serious disciplinary action. 

Ortis accused Looney of calling her boss to complain about a post made on a closed Facebook group. Ort agreed with her charge that her First Amendment right to free speech had been violated.

“In my opinion, the city manager crossed a line that you just do not cross,” Ort said at the May 10 meeting.

At its May 24 meeting, the council discussed the findings of the disciplinary committee in another two-hour executive session. No action was taken and no reconciliation was made at that time.

On Tuesday, Mayor Skinner dismissed Looney from Council Chambers at City Hall after the vote as his termination was effective immediately. He will be compensated as per his contract.

Looney had been employed as the Granite Shoals city manager since Sept. 10, 2018. His salary was raised from $125,000 to $167,000 on Aug. 4, 2020

As Looney packed his things, he claimed to have resigned prior to the meeting, but City Attorney Joshua Katz explained that his resignation was conditional upon receiving certain payments, which were not made.

Looney asked that his severance package be paid immediately since his termination was effective immediately.

“All I can say is that the city is going to work to provide that severance package as quickly as we can,” Katz said.

The council intends to discuss finding an interim city manager at its next meeting, which is at 6 p.m. June 28 at City Hall, 2221 N. Phillips Ranch Road.

dakota@thepicayune.com

3 thoughts on “Granite Shoals city manager fired

  1. How do we know Looney is the bad guy? We have too few details. Maybe he was justified in his concern about what she posted, maybe not. Of course the man is the big bad person and the woman is instantly the one defended, no matter what.

    1. Then you have a conversation with that person. You do not have the right to call the person’s employer I don’t care who you are!

  2. Withuthe hot drive temperatures we have had so far this year, and the numerous wildfire l, banning aerial fireworks makes a lot of sense. Thank you to the Burnet county commissioners for recognizing this.

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