By the time he announced his resignation on July 23, City Manager Jim Hunt had already sought to have himself hired as assistant city manager, a position the city manager supervises. Hunt reversed course within the next few days, withdrawing his acceptance of the position.
Hunt said at the July 23 meeting of the Seward City Council that he had already received another job offer, but he did not say where or with whom. Documents acquired by the Seward Journal show that he was very likely speaking of his plan to take over for Assistant City Manager Ron Long, who retired Aug. 1.
An email sent to the city clerk by personnel officer Riley Shurtleff on July 24, the day after Hunt announced his resignation, confirmed that Hunt had accepted the assistant city manager position.
“City Manager Jim Hunt has accepted the offer to step down from his current role and take on the position of Assistant City Manager,” Shurtleff wrote. “Jim will be starting in his new role on August 23, following the conclusion of his necessary thirty days’ notice given at Monday night’s council meeting.”
Several council members, the mayor, the city attorney, and other sources in city government said that Hunt chose a department head to serve as acting city manager for a short period last month, and that this department head offered Hunt the job.
Rumors to this effect had already begun circulating by the time of a special City Council meeting on July 26, by which time Hunt had withdrawn his application, according to statements made at the meeting by City Attorney William Earnhart, who attended the meeting telephonically.
Earnhart said in an interview that his firm had told the city that the city manager cannot delegate his power to someone else in order to appoint himself to a position.
Shurtleff confirmed that Hunt was no longer in the running in an email sent to city employees on Thursday, Aug. 2.
“As the successful candidate for this position withdrew his application, this position remains open to internal candidates with a final internal applicant deadline of 4:00 p.m. today,” Shurtleff wrote in an email timestamped 11:46 a.m. on Aug 2.
The original internal advertisement had a deadline of 5 p.m. on July 18. Shurtleff said in an interview that the extension was intended to give all interested internal candidates an opportunity to apply. He also said that the position had actually been open the entire time, despite the clear deadline listed in the original email.
“There was a unique situation with the successful candidate withdrawing his application, so the job was continuously open in house since it was announced,” Shurtleff said. “That’s standard practice for in-house jobs.”
Shurtleff would not confirm, however, that Hunt had been that successful candidate, although he stated that clearly in the July 24 email to the clerk. He also would not describe the manner in which Hunt had been offered and accepted that job.
“The bottom line is this is an internal personnel matter,” Shurtleff said. “Administration handled it in accordance with Seward city code.”
The assistant city manager position was first advertised internally on July 11, with the position to close internally on July 18. The date Hunt accepted the position has not been disclosed.
By Friday, Hunt had appointed another candidate to the position, Campgrounds Supervisor Brennan Hickok.
Hunt did not respond to voicemails left Friday, Aug. 3, at his workplace and on his cell phone.
According to several Facebook posts late Friday afternoon, Hunt turned in his keys and doesn’t plan to return to his office.
Council Member Suzi Towsley posted, “Hunt left city hall and said in his last email that he turned in the keys and the truck and is gone, effective today.”
Towsley's report was later confirmed when the Journal obtained an email Hunt sent on Friday saying that he would be stepping down "effective today."
Aug. 7, 10:00 a.m.
Correction: This article originally included a claim by Council Member Suzi Towsley that now Assistant City Manager Brennan Hickok was acting city manager. That claim should have been removed since it was unconfirmed. Fire Chief Eddie Athey is currently acting city manager.