City Manager David Hales’ planned exit next week in only his 11th month on the job is going unexplained so far.
But the separation agreement that goes to the city council for approval Tuesday might tell more than what city officials are saying as to whether Hales wants out, is being forced out, or some combination of the two.
So far, Hales has not returned calls for comment or issued any statement about why he is leaving.
Mayor Bob O’Dekirk has not returned calls for comment.
One city council member, Larry Hug, has talked about the reasons behind Hales’ departure and said “it’s his decision.”
“Nobody has brought up termination in any way, shape or form that I’m aware of,” Hug said.
However, Hales’ contract provides him no severance pay if he resigns, although he is owed six months of his $215,000 salary if he is terminated. Hales reportedly has hired a lawyer to negotiate the separation agreement that is supposed to go to the council next week.
Sources who would not allow their names to be used but have strong connections to city hall said Hales was under pressure from at least some members of the council and the mayor.
“I heard he knew he was going to be out, and he wanted to leave on his terms,” one said.
Another said Hales “was not getting along with the mayor and certain council people for different reasons.”
The breaking point may have come at a closed session after the Oct. 1 workshop meeting of the city council where, according to one source, there was disagreement among some over Hales’ decision to hire an outside consultant to assist with the hiring of a new police chief to replace Brian Benton, who retired in late August.
The consultant was interviewing council members, police officers and members of the public to develop a profile of what kind of chief should be hired, including whether it should be someone from inside or outside the Joliet Police Department.
After its Oct. 2 meeting, the council met in closed session again but without Hales. At that meeting, O’Dekirk told the council that it should be ready to begin considering an exit strategy for Hales in two weeks, the source said.
Councilman John Gerl, who heads the council’s Public Safety Committee, said he did not think Hales was under pressure because of the consultant. However, Gerl said he disagreed with the decision.
“I would think that would be something we could do in-house,” Gerl said. “I don’t think we needed that consultant.”
Hales is in the 11th month of a three-year contract.
The contract allows him six months’ salary “in the event the mayor and city council elect to terminate” him.
“The city shall not be required to pay severance in the case of voluntary resignation or job abandonment,” the contract states.
Hales and his attorney reportedly were still negotiating a separation agreement Thursday when the city decided to issue a news release announcing that the agreement would be on the city council agenda. Hales is said to have agreed with issuing the media release.
The council will discuss the agreement in closed session at its Monday workshop meeting before voting on it at the regular meeting Tuesday, according to a memo to the council from Inspector General Chris Regis, who is negotiating the agreement for the city.
The council also is slated to vote to end Hales’ contract as city manager effective Wednesday.
That means the city likely will have to scramble to find a new city manager for the second time in two years.
Hales’ predecessor, Jim Hock, announced in April 2017 that he would retire and had left in May, six months before Hales was hired.