AUSTIN (KXAN) — Spencer Cronk was named Austin’s city manager in 2017. This Wednesday, Cronk’s employment will be discussed at a special city council meeting.
Specifically, council members may “authorize payment of severance benefits to City Manager Spencer Cronk,” the agenda says. In closed session, council will “discuss legal and personnel issues related to the employment, compensation and benefits for the city manager.”
An interim city manager appointment will also be discussed Wednesday.
Here’s a look at the hiring and tenure of Cronk as city manager:
Aug. 2016: Marc Ott resigns as Austin city manager
Former city manager Marc Ott announced he would leave the city manager role in October for a job with the International City/County Management Association in Washington, D.C. Ott told Austin City Council that he was a finalist for the job in June. He spent eight years in the Austin job.
After a yearlong vacancy, interviews began for the city manager position. The names of the candidates were unknown, but the interim city manager, Elaine Hart, did not apply for the job.
Out of six candidates, city council moved forward with Spencer Cronk and Howard Lazarus. Cronk worked as the Minneapolis city coordinator, and Lazarus worked as the Ann Arbor, Michigan, city administration with prior experience with the city.
Dec. 2017: Cronk named city manager
City council hired Spencer Cronk to be the next city manager. In a statement, Cronk said, “Austin’s future is bright and I believe that by working together, we can build on the city’s strengths to be more inclusive and innovative so everyone has the opportunity to succeed.”
His annual salary started at $325,000. The contract also included a $7,200 annual executive allowance and a $4,500 housing allowance for six months.
June 2018: Cronk asks council to approve police chief
Cronk asked the city council to confirm interim Police Chief Brian Manley for the permanent role. The appointment was unanimously approved.
Dec. 2018: Cronk gets pay raise
City council approved a raise for Cronk that increased his base salary to $350,001.60.
Feb. 2019: Cronk discusses first year on the job
One year in, he discussed the biggest issues the city faced, including a zebra mussel infestation and a city boil water notice, and shared hopes going forward.
Following council calls for several major reforms to policing, a city spokesperson said Cronk had no plans to fire or demote then-chief Brian Manley. In a city memo, Cronk shared some planned changes for “reimagining public safety.”
“I will also, in turn, hold my entire executive team accountable including our public safety leadership,” Cronk said in a Public Safety Committee meeting. “That includes our chief and I’ve had many pointed conversations with him over the past several weeks.”
“I assure you that both Chief Manley and the entire public safety team are committed to this transformational change and as we move forward we will uphold everything that we need to do to move forward in that manner,” Cronk added.
June 2020: City manager proposes police cuts
Cronk proposed eliminating nearly 100 sworn positions from the Austin Police Department. The department had 172 vacancies and the positions in jeopardy are currently unfilled. A memo from Cronk also said the city is mulling moving some positions out of APD.
Aug. 2020: City council reviews Cronk’s employment
Upset over the pace at which City Manager Spencer Cronk has addressed calls for leadership changes at the Austin Police Department, former council member Jimmy Flannigan called for a review of Cronk’s employment with the city.
About 86% of voters chose to keep Austin’s current strong city manager system. That means the “CEO” role of the city stays with Cronk rather than moving administrative responsibilities to the mayor.
In a statement before the election, Cronk said in part: “Ultimately, this is a decision for the voters.”
The director of Austin Water resigned amid questions regarding the city’s third boil water notice in the past four years. Cronk confirmed the resignation in a memo and said he would name an interim director.
Three employees were also placed on administrative leave while an investigation took place.
“Director Meszaros, the entire Austin Water Utility, and I all understand the immense responsibilities to the public and know how important it is to restore and nurture the public’s faith and trust during this transition,” Cronk said in a statement to KXAN. “We are committed to doing all that is necessary to regain that trust. Nothing is more important to me and our organization.” I thank Director Meszaros for all his years of service and leadership, and for being an integral part of my executive team. I wish him and his family the very best.”
Dec. 2022: Cronk gets 11% raise from council
Council members voted to give Cronk a $38,000, or 11%, raise. The vote was not unanimous with council members Alison Alter, Paige Ellis and former council member Kathie Tovo abstaining from the vote. Alter voiced concerns about staffing vacancies and a “toxic” work environment.
Following the Central Texas ice storm that left thousands of Austin Energy customers in the dark for several days, Austin Mayor Kirk Watson wrote on Twitter he added an emergency item to the agenda “because the management of this situation and the lack of clear and timely and accurate communication has left our community in the dark. It is unacceptable. The City of Austin can and will do better.”
There was only one item listed on the agenda. “Evaluate the terms and conditions of the City Manager’s employment with the City of Austin,” the agenda read.
Ahead of a special meeting to discuss Cronk’s employment, he responded to the agenda item at a news conference about debris removal.
“I serve at the pleasure of this new mayor and council and I’ll be having that conversation with them on Thursday. I’m here to make sure that we are responding directly to this weather event. That’s been my sole focus. I’m very grateful of our incredible city staff that have been doing the same. I am laser-focused on getting power restored to all of our customers and to ensure that we’re getting through this weather event successfully,” Cronk said.
Austin Energy leaders answered city council’s questions about their ice storm response. Cronk also apologized for the city’s “shortcomings” in their response.
“We will be working closely with meteorologists and other experts to better understand the factors that contributed to this weather event and develop more effective strategies for responding to similar incidents in the future,” Austin City Manager Spencer Cronk said at the meeting.
In a special-called meeting, council discussed the city manager’s employment with the city. The discussion was held behind closed doors in executive session.
Mayor Kirk Watson wrote on Twitter Monday he added the emergency item to the agenda “because the management of this situation and the lack of clear and timely and accurate communication has left our community in the dark. It is unacceptable. The City of Austin can and will do better.”
Feb. 10: Council members say Cronk is out
Austin City Council members unanimously agreed to part ways with City Manager Spencer Cronk, two city council members told KXAN under the condition they not be named. The decision was made in executive session Thursday.
Feb. 11: Cronk responds to council decision
Cronk released a statement about the Feb. 15 special council meeting.
“This meeting was originally posted as a postponed discussion regarding a proposed new one-year meet and confer agreement with the Austin Police Association,” Cronk’s statement reads. “However, since the posting of these Saturday night addendum items relate to my employment and severance benefits, I will simply reiterate that I remain Austin’s City Manager and no actions have been taken by this new Mayor and Council to change my responsibilities or role.”
Feb. 13: Cronk pens letter to city staff
Cronk said in an email to city staff Monday highlighting city accomplishments during his time as city manager including affordable housing, Project Connect, and workforce investment.
“I know that the City’s accomplishments and triumphs over the past five years could not have been achieved without you,” the email reads in part. “I admire your innovative ideas, your dedication, and your efforts to see projects through to the end.”
Feb. 15: Special meeting to discuss Cronk’s employment, interim city manager
City council will meet Feb. 15 to approve the Austin Police Association meet and confer labor contract. Mayor Watson and three other council members added two more items to the agenda regarding severance benefits and the potential appointment of an interim city manager.
Feb. 15: Cronk fired
In a 10-1 vote, Austin City Council voted to fire Cronk. Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison was the lone “no” vote.
Cronk will receive his base pay salary for 12 months, plus six months of COBRA payments and other payouts, which add up to about $463,000.