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September 20, 2014

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Council discussion on Henderson city manager slated for Tuesday

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Mary Kay Peck

After a month of limbo, the Henderson City Council is scheduled to decide the fate of Henderson City Manager Mary Kay Peck next week.

The City Council agenda posted Wednesday morning includes an item for discussion and possible action regarding Peck's employment status at Tuesday's meeting. The item has five possible recommendations, four of which would end with her leaving the city and one of which would place her on administrative leave.

The following agenda item is for the appointment of a new city manager.

Assistant City Manager Mark Calhoun, who competed with Peck for the job when she was appointed 18 months ago, has been acting city manager in Peck's absence.

Henderson spokeswoman Cindy Herman said no decisions have been made regarding Peck's status, but that the agenda items were posted to keep every possible option open.

"The agenda item provides the Henderson City Council the latitude to consider whatever options they see fit and, if necessary, take the appropriate action," Herman said.

Under the terms of Peck's contract, if she is terminated not for cause, she will be owed the remaining 18 months of her three-year contract, which pays her a base salary of $225,000 per year. There is a clause that allows her to be terminated for cause if the council determines that she intentionally failed to fulfill her duties as city manager.

Herman said the city attorney's office has been negotiating a possible settlement with Peck's attorney, and much could happen before the council meets.

"The decision of the Henderson council will be based on what's best for the Henderson community and the employees of the city of Henderson," she said.

Herman said the item regarding the appointment of a new city manager was placed on the agenda so that, in the event that Peck is dismissed, there can be an immediate continuity in the city's top appointed position.

Peck was asked by city officials to take a 30-day leave on March 17 and directed her not to have any contact with city employees.

Councilman Steve Kirk said at the time that the city needed to go in a different direction, but Norman Kirshman, Peck's attorney, said she was never given a reason for the leave and possible dismissal.

Kirshman said he was not surprised by the agenda items, but said Peck's preference is to keep her job, and he has not stopped fighting to do so. He continues to meet with members of the city attorney's office and said he will address the City Council on Peck's behalf Tuesday.

"I think it will be over when the fat lady sings," Kirshman said.

Last week, Kirshman issued a press release on Peck's behalf in which he stated that Peck was never given a formal review as stated in her contract.

In his release, Kirshman called reports that linked Peck's leave to the way she handled budget projections "absolutely false."

"As Ms. Peck's attorney, it is my personal conclusion that political motivations have been substituted for rational thinking, notwithstanding the cost to the city," Kirshman said in his statement.

Henderson has trimmed more than $50 million from the current year's budget and made millions more in cuts for the next four budget cycles to respond to rapidly declining tax revenues.

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