A large crowd turned-out for Wednesday evening’s meeting of the Atlantic City Council. Most of the more than two-dozen people were there to show their support for City Administrator Doug Harris, who was asked to resign nearly two weeks ago. Harris, who has served the City since 2010, reached a severance agreement with the City that was approved by the Personnel and Finance Committee during their meeting on Sept. 23rd. Following a lengthy closed session to discuss the matter, the Council voted four-to three to approve Harris’ resignation and the severance package. Councilpersons Jimerson, Stuart and Cord voted against the matter, while Councilpersons Somers, Halder, Hayes and Hartkopf voted in favor.
The Council also voted to appoint Harris’ assistant, John Lund, as Interim City Administrator. Mayor Jones suggested Lund hold the position for at least six months, but in the end, his length of service in the position and salary will be determined by the City’s Personnel and Finance Committee.
Among those who spoke in support of Harris prior to the Council’s vote to accept his resignation, was Atlantic resident Doug Dimig, who said “The City of Atlantic owes Doug Harris a deep debt of gratitude.” Dimig said Harris worked hard to restore the City’s infrastructure in a fiscally responsible manner. Former Councilpersons Kern Miller, Dave Wheatley and Pat Simmons were in the audience, as well. Miller, who was on the Council when Harris was hired, said Harris was “The most informed gentleman to handle the type of situations we have in this community.” He was referring to the recently approved Tax Abatements and Tax Increment Financing matters.
Mayor Dave Jones has repeated said Harris was asked to resign because he and the City “We’re going in different directions.” When asked by Cass County Supervisor Mark Wedemeyer is Harris could choose to stay, Harris was diplomatic in his answer. He said “The Administrator serves at pleasure of the Council. There has to be that working relationship and trust. And sometimes, there are different viewpoints, and that’s fine.” He went on to say he’s enjoyed working with the council and for the community and that “We’ve accomplished a lot, but…they made it clear they did not agree…I respect that.” Harris acknowledged he was asked to resign.
He said his employment agreement stipulated the Council could terminate his services without cause, as a means of best protecting the community’s interests.