Olson criticizes firing of former city manager

FLUSHING — Interim Flushing City Councilman John Olson has criticized his fellow city council members for the way they handled the recent firing of former City Manager Brad Barrett.

During a special Flushing City Council meeting held on April 29, Olson said that Mayor Joseph Karlichek, Mayor Pro Tem Edward Sullivan and Councilwoman Brooke Good did not include him in the process leading up to Barrett’s dismissal. The city council terminated Barrett’s contract on April 20 by a 3-1 vote, with Olson being the dissenting vote.

Olson further said that Barrett’s termination was “obviously planned” and that there could have been a “likely violation of the Open Meetings Act” if other council members discussed Barrett’s dismissal prior to the April 20 city council meeting. He also said that “the intent of the city charter was violated” because Barrett was removed by a 3-1 vote and not by “four affirmative votes.”

Olson also did not participate in an executive closed session to discuss the terms of Barrett’s severance offer.

“Because I was not involved in the decision to let the city manager go, I didn’t want to be part of what was being discussed in his contract,” he said.

Mayor Karlichek issued this response to Olson’s comments:

“I respect Mr. Olson and his opinion,” Karlichek said. “However, (each) council member is expected to research, discover and listen to all facts to be informed. I’m confident had Mr. Olson not refused to participate in the closed session of city council, he may have discovered a difference of opinion.”

Olson, who is also the Flushing City Planning Commission Chairman, was appointed as an interim at-large member of the council in March. His appointment ensured that the council will be able to have a quorum of at least four members until the Aug. 4 election.

According to Section 3.10 of the Flushing City Charter, at least four members are needed to constitute a quorum of the Flushing City Council. Section 4.6-b does state that certain actions “shall require the affirmative vote of four members of the Council for the effectiveness thereof: (1) Vacating, discontinuing or abolishing any highway, street, lane, alley or other public place or part thereof; (2) Leasing, selling or disposing of any City owned real estate or interest therein; (3) Authorizing the condemnation of private property for public use; (4) Creating or abolishing any office; (5) Appropriating any money; (6) Imposing any tax or assessment; (7) Reconsidering or rescinding any vote of the Council.”

However, according to an analysis provided by Cooley Law School professor Gerald Fisher, the Flushing City Charter does not have a provision that creates a special voting requirement to remove the city manager. Instead, as stated by Fisher, “the general rule is that a city council meeting can be conducted with a quorum, and decisions can be made by majority vote of the quorum.”