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Future of city manager cloudy

An attorney for embattled Henderson City Manager Mary Kay Peck said his client has been placed on paid administrative leave but no one has told her she is being fired or tried to negotiate her departure from the city.

Attorney Norman Kirshman on Friday said a report that the city is in discussions over a separation agreement with Peck was “unequivocally not true.”

Instead, Kirshman said, Peck was placed on 30 days of paid administrative leave on March 17 and ordered to have no contact with any city employees. There have been no formal negotiations about Peck’s continued employment with the city, he said.

City spokeswoman Cindy Herman offered a different take.

She said Peck agreed to go on vacation until April 15 and that the city attorney’s office has had a number of talks with Kirshman about Peck’s employment status.

Herman confirmed that Peck is not to have any contact with city employees during her vacation. “I’m not privy to why that was part of the agreement, but it was part of the agreement. It was agreed to by both parties,” she said.

In Henderson, the city manager is appointed by the five-member City Council.

Council members were scheduled to review Peck’s job performance at their March 17 meeting, but the agenda item was delayed until April 14.

Herman said Peck has not received a public performance evaluation by the council in her 18 months as city manager, but she has been meeting regularly with individual council members to discuss her work.

There are indications that the agenda item for the April 14 meeting might be changed from an evaluation of Peck to a vote to fire her.

According to the city’s Human Resources Department, Peck draws a base salary of $225,000 a year.

Kirshman said his client is under contract with the city through October 2010. If she is fired without cause, the city will have to pay her for the rest of the contract “both in salary and in perks that translate to compensation,” he said.

The attorney on Friday issued a written statement on Peck’s behalf to answer public statements made by City Councilman Steve Kirk and others.

Kirk told the Review-Journal last week that the city was in the process of negotiating a separation agreement with Peck and that “everybody agrees that it is time for a change.”

He also said he did not expect Peck to stay on while her replacement is found.

Reached for comment on Friday, Kirk said attorneys for the city have instructed him not to say anything more about the situation. Kirshman said he represented Peck in October 2007 when she negotiated her contract as Henderson’s first female city manager.

He said Peck retained his services again in mid-March when she “became uncomfortable with what was going on.”

Kirshman could not explain why Peck was instructed not to talk to any city employees. “I’d say that’s an unusual request,” he said.

“Part of the problem in her situation is a lack of communication by the city,” Kirshman said. “I’m learning more from the press than I’m learning from the city.”

He added that if council members are dissatisfied with Peck’s job performance, they have not told her so in any official way.

He said her contract called for her to undergo a performance review after 6 months and 1 year on the job but neither review was done.

Contact reporter Henry Brean at hbrean@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0350.

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