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Archive for Friday, April 8, 2011

Topeka City Council votes to end city manager’s employment

April 8, 2011

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— The Topeka City Council approved a deal that will allow it to part ways with its embattled city manager.

The deal approved Thursday with City Manager Norton Bonaparte includes a severance payment of $100,000.

Bonaparte was hired in March 2006, and his departure is effective July 1, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported.

Council member John Alcala, who voted against the severance deal with Bonaparte, has been publicly seeking the votes necessary to fire Bonaparte since May 2009.

Alcala has been particularly critical of Bonaparte in recent weeks over his handling of a September incident in which scrap metal was taken from a work site by four employees of the water division and sold for personal profit. When the alleged theft was discovered, a supervisor retired and two employees were disciplined. Police weren't asked to investigate until earlier this year. Bonaparte had refused to confirm the theft or answer any questions about it, saying it was a personnel matter.

Council members have met several times in executive session during that time period to discuss Bonaparte's employment status.

"My comment is that the city council and I have mutually agreed to an amicable separation," said Bonaparte, 57. He declined additional comment.

Since his hiring, Bonaparte has worked under a contract that provides him with an annual base salary of $137,500, plus a monthly vehicle allowance of $550.

The contract called for Bonaparte to receive $103,125 in severance pay if the council voted to fire him without cause. It called for Bonaparte to receive no severance pay if he were fired "with cause," which would include such reasons as being convicted of a crime or failure to comply with the terms of his contract.

Bonaparte and council members agreed to alternative terms Thursday during a special meeting of Topeka's governing body, which was called last week by Mayor Bill Bunten.

"As we seek a new manager, those persons applying will recognize that we were fair with Mr. Bonaparte, and companies that think about coming to our city, I think, will be pleased that the question was resolved amicably," Bunten said.

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