AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin’s City Manager Spencer Cronk’s employment will be evaluated at a special-called Austin City Council meeting Thursday morning after Mayor Kirk Watson expressed frustration at the city’s response to last week’s ice storm.
Watson told KXAN that the meeting is intended to look at the scope of the city manager’s performance, not just his leadership during this unprecedented weather event.
“Out of that can happen anything: from nothing, which I would be surprised by, all the way to termination. And lots of things in between. I’m not going to prejudge. That’s the purpose of having this sort of performance evaluation,” Watson said. Though the discussion is happening Thursday, members would need to put the item on a later agenda for a vote if they’d like to fire Cronk.
If terminated, Cronk’s severance package — according to a 2018 resolution — includes a year of base pay and six months of COBRA premiums.
COBRA stands for the “Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985,” a federal law that requires employers to “offer Qualified Beneficiaries the opportunity to continue medical, dental, and vision at their own cost in the case of certain Qualifying Events,” according to the city’s COBRA guide.
The 2018 resolution also detailed that compensation and severance are reassessed at least annually.
In December, city council voted to bump Cronk’s base salary to $388,190.40. It was a roughly $38,000 raise, or just under 11%.
The city charter shows the following rules are set in place for terminating the city manager:
- The city manager can be removed by city council using a majority vote.
- If removed after serving six months, the city manager can demand written charges and the right to be heard at a public city council meeting prior to the date of his/her anticipated removal (the council can suspend the city manager from office until that time).
Cronk was hired by the city in late 2017, besting Howard Lazarus, who had a history with the City of Austin as a director for the Public Works Department and interim assistant city manager in 2010. Before he moved to Austin, Cronk worked as the city coordinator for Minneapolis.
Watson wrote on Twitter Monday that 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.”
Cronk appeared at a news conference Monday to discuss winter weather cleanup. KXAN’s Grace Reader asked for his response to the meeting.
“I serve at the pleasure of this new mayor and council, and I’ll be having that conversation with them on Thursday,” Cronk said. “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.”