BOTHELL — The City Council is parting ways with City Manager Jennifer Phillips and will pay more than $100,000 to see her off.
Phillips, hired in November 2016, will receive six months of pay and deferred compensation, plus a year of health benefits, under a severance agreement the council is to approve during its 6 p.m. meeting Tuesday. The total package is valued at roughly $130,000, of which $104,000 is for salary.
Her last day of “active employment” will be Friday. However, her official final day with the city will be April 1 as she uses up accrued leave, according to the agreement.
The city announced the deal in a news release last Friday, describing the exit as a retirement.
“As Bothell moves into a new phase, this separation agreement works for both the City and Ms. Phillips,” reads the news release. “City Council applauds Jennifer for navigating our pandemic and emergency management response over the last year. She has always shown strong and steady leadership for city staff and the community throughout her time with the City.”
Phillips, reached by phone Monday, declined to answer questions and hung up.
On Feb. 4 — the day before the city published its statement — Phillips shared the news with administrators of several Washington cities and the executives of at least two statewide organizations.
“I wanted you all to know that today I announced my retirement,” she wrote them in a group email. “Please know, that although this is unexpected, I am truly happy about this decision. I have negotiated a very fair separation agreement with the City.”
Continuing, she wrote, “it is time for me to be with my husband and enjoy this beautiful state, and once vaccinated travel again. And if the stars align like we hope, we will retire in Austria or Switzerland.”
Councilwoman Rosemary McAuliffe lauded Phillips on Monday.
“She did do an outstanding job making it through a very difficult year,” McAuliffe said.
A pandemic-driven economic downturn forced Phillips to lay off several city employees to resolve a budget shortfall, she noted.
And two tragic shootings involving police officers have rocked the community in recent months.
In July, a Bothell police officer died in a shootout following a traffic stop. Investigators later determined the bullet that killed the officer came from the gun of his wounded partner as he returned fire with the suspect.
Also in July, a Bothell man died after he charged at a police officer with something in his hand — reportedly a knife — and the officer opened fire. The victim’s family has raised questions about the events that day.
McAuliffe declined to say what led to the council and Phillips discussing a separation agreement. She did acknowledge that Phillips and some of the seven council members didn’t always agree on policy approaches.
Phillips served as city manager in St. Helena, California, before taking the job in Bothell. Her previous jobs included assistant city manager in Santa Rosa, Santa Monica and Fullerton, California.
Davina Duerr, a councilwoman and state representative, said Monday she would refrain from commenting until after the council acts.
Under terms of the deal, Phillips and council members agree to “not make any public statements that are false, injurious and/or derogatory” about one another.
Also Tuesday, the City Council will decide how to proceed in finding a replacement. City staff are recommending an acting city manager be named, with an eye to appointing a current city executive as an interim administrator at a future meeting.
A search for a new city manager could take roughly six months, according to a staff report.
Reporter Jerry Cornfield: email@example.com | @dospueblos
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