“You are still City Administrator,” Fairfield Mayor Roy Hill relates to Jeff Looney, following a Review and Evaluation held during a regular City Council session on Tuesday, January 24, 2017.
Following two and a half hours in closed executive session, and after hearing comments from citizens during the open meeting, Fairfield City Council unanimously voted to keep the City’s leadership in place.
Speaking before Council during the Citizens Forum at the beginning of the meeting were landowner Michael Daniels and long-time resident Jesse Jones.
Daniels has been working to bring some of his properties within code, interacting with several City employees, including Code Enforcement Officer Opal Oliver, Public Works Director Clyde Woods and City Administrator Jeff Looney.
He relates feeling specifically targeted by Looney, believing the City Administrator was abusing his power and authority.
Daniels concluded his statements by describing an exchange between his wife and the City Administrator, speaking directly to Looney, saying, “You do not talk to my wife, the way that you talked to my wife.”
City Administrator Looney responded that he was not disrespectful, naming two witnesses to the phone conversation: City Secretary Debbie Nesbitt and Public Works Director Clyde Woods.
Woods states that he came in about mid-way through the phone conversation and did not observe Looney being disrespectful at that time.
As to the charge of targeting Daniels personally, Looney states that, initially, the City was not even aware that one particular property belonged to the Daniels. The first letter from Code Enforcement was sent, in error, to another family.
“We did not target anyone,” explains Looney, saying that he, Woods and Oliver were working under the directive of the Council in
Daniels responded by voicing a frustration in working with the City. He relates being told by Looney and Oliver that a building permit was not needed, as long the work being done did not include load-bearing walls, and no addition to the building was planned.
“So, what am I supposed to go by?” Daniels asks the Council.
The Public Works Director Woods added, “This is one of the reasons why, I believe, we need to get the word out to the public.” Woods implores residents to contact the City before doing anything to their property.
Next, long-time resident, Jesse Jones related to Council an incident that occurred on Tuesday, January 3rd when he turned in an Open Records request to City Secretary Nesbitt.
“I was pulling away from City Hall when Jeff Looney came barreling out of his door with my request in his hand; flags me down, opens my door, and goes to hollering and screaming like a wild man,” states Jones.
“[Mr. Jones] has threatened me, he is harassing me constantly, and I have taken the brunt of that for you,” Looney told the Council.
While the City Administrator agreed that the exchange, referenced by Jones, did become “heated,” Looney explained it was because Jones was getting into his personal business.
“He has never been denied access to any of those [City] documents,” says Looney.
Jones went on to mention a couple witnesses to the exchange, but would not provide those names without first speaking with them.
“If we don’t have the witness’s name, they can’t be called to the Council,” replied Mayor Hill.
Before convening into Executive Session, Mayor Hill confirmed with the attending City attorney that City employees, who might have information relative to the issues, could stay for the closed portion of the meeting.
The 20-member audience took their chairs into the hallway while Council members stayed behind closed doors to conduct a Review and Evaluation of City Administrator Looney. At times, during the two and a half hour conference, raised voices could be heard, however, the content of the conversations were not distinguishable.
Once the meeting was opened to the public again, Councilman David Steward stated, “I make the Motion that we take no action concerning Jeff Looney’s employment, and any issues prior, or past issues, are pretty much are due met.”
“I second the Motion,” added Councilman Joe Lee Kirgan, Jr.
When asked for a show of hands, Council members were united in approving the measure, with none opposed.
A few days later, City Administrator Looney issued the following written statement:
“I would like to thank the City Council for their understanding and guidance and I’m thankful to the employees that make work easier. I cannot thank the Citizens enough for the support that has been provided over the years.
“We have a great city and I care deeply for Fairfield’s wellbeing.
“Public Service is a tough and demanding job. I’m to be fair and help everyone.
“I will always need your help and guidance too and I hope we have many years together. Peace of mind, joy for all things and may love abound in and around us all.
With Love and Respect, Jeff Looney.
In other business, Council approved installing Matt Foree as a part-time paid Fire Chief for the City of Fairfield.