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Galesburg city manager on personal leave; city has ‘unresolved legal matters’

Jane Carlson
Tri States Public Radio

Galesburg City Manager Gerald Smith is on personal administrative leave.

Smith submitted notice of the leave as of May 30, according to the city council agenda for Monday, June 5.

At Monday’s meeting, the council will consider a 10% pay increase for Director of Community Development Steve Gugliotta, who is serving as acting city manager.

Mayor Peter Schwartzman told TSPR a lot of stress has been put on Smith over the past few months.

“I’m sure everyone watching the meetings over that time span can understand why,” Schwartzman said.

Galesburg city manager Gerald Smith.
Courtesy photo
City of Galesburg
Galesburg city manager Gerald Smith.

Schwartzman also said the city has “unresolved legal matters” that he cannot discuss further.

Smith’s leave comes after four council members called for a special meeting to potentially fire him at the May 15 council meeting, which was the first full meeting of the newly seated council after April’s consolidated election.

The agenda for the special meeting was sent out after 4 p.m. on Friday, May 12, taking the mayor and the other three council members by surprise.

But the agenda item for potentially dismissing Smith was ultimately dropped, following council discussions with legal representatives prior to the meeting and public outcry.

Workload and morale
Smith was hired in September 2022 on a 4-3 vote by the council,following the departure of Todd Thompson. Smith began working for the city in November.

But since Thompson’s departure, it’s been a year of upheaval in some of the city’s key administrative roles.

The city’s in-house legal counsel resigned in September 2022. The city then entered into an interim, month-by-month arrangement with local law firm Barash and Everett for executive legal counsel, but that arrangement is ending this week.

Former public works director Wayne Carl served as interim city manager before Smith was hired, but Carl retired from the city earlier this year.

The city is now also without a public works director, after thecity council voted 5-2 to table a contract for the interim director.

Schwartzman said he’s very concerned about workload and morale for employees.

“I have been concerned about morale for months,” Schwartzman said. “It obviously isn’t getting better.”

Independent legislative counsel
At Monday’s meeting, the council will also convene into two closed sessions related to personnel, one scheduled before the regular meeting and one after.

Other items on the agenda are changes to public comment and an ordinance to appoint Ancel Glink P.C. as independent legislative counsel.

The latter item was also on the agenda for the special meeting called by four council members last month. It did not come to a vote then, but a partner at Ancel Glink, Keri-Lyn Krafthefer, was in attendance and explained what the firm’s role would be.

Per the ordinance, legislative counsel would provide legal opinions in addition to advising the council on legislative duties, but would not usurp the powers of the city’s executive legal counsel.

The city’s Freedom of Information Act log shows Krafthefer submitted a public records request at 1:13 p.m. Friday, May 12, three hours before the agenda for the special meeting called by four council members was sent out that day.

The FOIA request was for “any and all MP3, audio files, or transcriptions of MP3 or audio files on City Manager Smith's city-owned/city-issued iPad, cellphone, desktop, laptop, or the City's server from December 1, 2022 through today.”

The city council meets at 5:30 p.m. Monday in council chambers.

Tri States Public Radio produced this story.  TSPR relies on financial support from our readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the issues that matter to west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. As someone who values the content created by TSPR's news department please consider making a financial contribution.

Jane Carlson is TSPR's regional reporter.