Coatesville terminates its city manager

Gary Rawlings shown the door after 13 months on the job

Gary Rawlings, 66, was terminated by Coatesville City Council, which said it didn't believe he was acting in the city's best interests.

By Kathleen Brady Shea, Managing Editor,

COATESVILLE — The swift, unanimous vote by City Council at last night’s meeting occurred without comment: After 13 months on the job, City Manager Gary Rawlings was terminated.

After the meeting, Council President Ed Simpson said dissatisfaction over Rawlings’ performance had been percolating for some time and that council felt he “wasn’t doing the job we had hired him to do.”

At the May 14 council meeting, Rawlings responded to criticism about some racially-charged remarks he admitted making during a supervisors’ meeting. He said his statements, which suggested that votes were divided along racial lines between the council’s four African-American and three Caucasian members – were taken out of context, a response. He was placed on paid administrative leave a week ago.

“The comments were part of it,” Simpson said of the decision to fire Rawlings. “Sometimes Mr. Rawlings was his own worst enemy,” Simpson said. Asked to elaborate, Simpson declined to “get into specifics,” however, he said on several occasions, when council members disagreed with Rawlings’ actions, the city manager responded: “If you don’t like what I’m doing, you always have the option to get rid of me.”

Simpson said the council finally decided to take him up on his offer. “If you say it repeatedly, there must be something to it,” Simpson said.

Rawlings did not return repeated phone calls seeking comment.

Rawlings also generated criticism last summer when he asked council whether living close to, but not within Coatesville, would violate his contract, which specifies that he reside within the city limits. He was told that it would but signed a year’s lease in Caln Township, anyway.

Simpson said he expected the search for a new city manager to begin within the next two weeks. He said his preference was to advertise nationally and possibly to increase the salary. Rawlings, 66, was hired in May 2011 at a salary of $95,000 after the top candidate declined to take the position. “You get what you pay for,” Simpson said.

During the meeting, council voted unanimously to make Assistant Manager Kirby Hudson the acting city manager, increasing his pay commensurate with the position.

The decision to give Police Chief M. Julius Canale and Lt. Rita Shesko month-to-month contracts until their permanent replacements can be found generated some dissent. Both employees accepted the city’s early-retirement option and have been paid 30 percent of their salary by the city and 70 percent through their pensions. Council voted to give Shesko a month-to-month agreement; however, Canale is still working day-to-day. Neither attended the meeting.

Amanda Winkey, a longtime resident, urged the Council not to incur the expense of keeping retired officers on the payroll when worthy candidates for the positions reside “within our own house.” She then singled out Officer Rodger Ollis for praise, calling him “a top cop” who has worked “24/7 for this city.” Members of the audience nodded in agreement as she detailed his efforts to clean up the city, ranging from picking up trash to going places other officers avoid.

Members of the Elite Motorcycle Club stand at attention as their representatives present the city with a $1,055 check for the Coates Street fire victims.

Council members expressed concern after learning that about 10 victims of the June 6 rowhouse fire that displaced 18 had been told they would have to leave the new Marriott Courtyard hotel by noon Friday.

Patti Burgess, one of the victims, said that she had been told hours earlier, stressing that the issue was not monetary. She said a sports tournament had booked all area hotel rooms. Burgess said her insurance was covering her hotel cost and that even though some of the uninsured victims had exhausted their Red Cross funds, they had scraped money together so they didn’t have to relocate yet.

Council members said they would make calls to ensure the victims had a place to stay. Earlier in the meeting, they accepted a check from the Elite Motorcycle Club, which received a standing ovation for raising $1,055 for the fire victims. “This goes to show what the community can do,” said Simpson. “It’s touching to know that people can dig into their pockets.”

The council voted unanimously to dig into the city’s wallet and pay the Philadelphia 76ers $600 to conduct a one-day clinic this summer for up to 200 children. It grudgingly accepted its “contractual obligation” for a $1,500 tuition reimbursement to Lt. Chris McEvoy, who has been on paid leave since Aug. 22. Council said McEvoy was the subject of an internal investigation after allegations surfaced over his inappropriate fraternizing with a subordinate.

In other personnel matters, the council split on whether to vote on a revised agreement for John Marcarelli, a Montgomery County resident who was hired a week ago as the new finance director at a salary of $79,000. Several council members said they wanted more time to review the changes Marcarelli had requested.

The 4-3 vote for a delay until next week prompted a question from Marcarelli about whether he should continue to show up. He said he had been “spending a significant amount of time” on city business and did not want to continue working if he wasn’t going to get paid. City solicitor John Carnes said he would be paid under the terms of the agreement approved a week ago.

Councilman Jarrell Brazzle explained that some council members wanted time to review the amended document. “The way this council works – or tries to work – we just need until next week to digest the amended agreement,” he said.

Marcarelli agreed to the delay but expressed some frustration. “It just seems that this goes on and on,” he said.

Several council members applauded the new Farmers Market that debuted on Saturday, calling it a welcome addition to the city.
“That is another good thing that is happening in Coatesville,” said Councilman David Collins.

Councilman Joseph Hamrick, agreed, suggesting that in addition to providing fresh produce, the market offers a lively “social gathering” where friends and neighbors can interact. He said he plans to be a regular visitor.

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