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Ash fires finance commissioner

Xavier Smith • Nov 13, 2017 at 11:09 AM

Lebanon Finance Commissioner Robert Springer is on administrative leave with pay after Lebanon Mayor Bernie Ash attempted to fire him Monday morning. 

“He called me into a meeting and said he was firing me,” said Springer, who said the only reason he was given for the termination was Ash believed he called a city meeting during the mayor’s absence while recovering from heart surgery.

“He’s not fired. He’s on administrative leave with pay,” said city attorney Andy Wright, who, along with Lebanon Human Resources Director Sylvia Reichle, was not present during the meeting.

Wright said department heads are to receive a termination hearing, per the city charter. Wright said Springer will receive a letter with the reasons for his potential termination and hearing date, which will likely take place next Monday. 

“While the mayor’s intent is clear, Robert’s current status with the city is that he’s been placed on administrative leave with pay and will receive notice of a hearing date either today or tomorrow setting a hearing next week. The hearing notice will list the specific rule or regulation upon which the mayor is basing his cause for disciplinary action,” Wright said. “In this particular instance, I have been informed by the mayor that his cause for taking disciplinary action against Robert [Monday] was Robert’s alleged violation of Rule X, Sec. 7, Rule 53: Insubordination.

“I called the meeting,” said Councilor and Mayor Pro-Tem Rob Cesternino, who said the meeting was to address a gap in the city charter that could have put Cesternino in the mayor’s position until the next election.

Cesternino said Springer’s only role in the meeting was organizing and scheduling a time for all relevant parties to meet.

“[Ash] said he did not feel like I was supporting him,” Springer said.

Springer said the finance commissioner is one of the few positions in the city that’s designed to act and report to the mayor and council regardless of political stance.

“The finance commissioner is supposed to do what’s in the best interest of the city and not what’s in the best interest of any politician,” Springer said.

Ash emailed councilors Monday and notified them Stuart Lawson would act as interim finance commissioner until further notice. He said he believed the city would be in good hands with Lawson leading the finance department. 

Councilors said they did not know about the potential termination prior to Monday’s meeting. 

“It was a total shock to me. I didn’t know about it ahead of time or anything,” said Councilor Fred Burton, who said he would inquire about the termination Monday.

“I haven’t heard the reason for it, so until I do I can’t really comment. I’ve never heard of Robert of being under any disciplinary action or anything negative at all. This is a surprise to me,” Councilor Tick Bryan said. 

“I think is a day-to-day operations thing, which is a part of the mayor’s job,” said Councilor Joey Carmack, who said he also didn’t know much about the situation prior to Ash’s email.

Councilors Rick Bell and Chris Crowell said they hope to get more answers about the situation during Thursday’s council work session. 

“Bernie is the mayor and we want him to lead and manage the city well. As far I know, Robert has done an excellent job. I’m trusting that he is making the best decision for the city,” Crowell said.

“I don’t really know enough about it to tell anything. I assume Thursday night he will tell us more about it,” Bell said.

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