Kerry Miller writes checks to arts coordinator |

Kerry Miller writes checks to arts coordinator

City Councilman Bill Crawford said he will ask both the city manager and the arts coordinator to resign following what he calls “a serious misappropriation of public funds.”

“I believe this is a serious matter, and to forego the pain and suffering of any criminal action I will simply ask for the resignation of both Kerry Miller and arts coordinator Phylise Walker at the Sept. 21 City Council meeting,” Crawford said.

“At this point, my feeling is Phylise Walker realized that under her contract she was not entitled to money for health benefits, and that disqualifies her from public service.”

Crawford is referring to two checks totaling $548 written out to Walker and signed by Miller, reimbursing her for health insurance. The problem is that Walker’s contract makes no mention of the city paying for her health coverage.

“It was only for two months,” Walker said. “It was only for $550. I don’t understand why it became such a big deal. Kerry said Bill Crawford and (Councilwoman) Brooke Laine didn’t approve (so the payments stopped).”

Councilwoman Brooke Laine, who originally brought the issue to the council’s attention during a closed session, said she was disappointed but made no mention of asking for resignations.

“Hiring someone as a contractor, as opposed to as an employee, is so you can save on expenses and still get the job done,” Laine said. “I was disappointed that the city manager approved those expenses, even though Phylise Walker’s contract did not allow for them.”

Walker’s contract does not mention health benefit coverage, and consultants usually are not entitled to the same perks as full-time employees. Nevertheless, Miller said there was room for discretion when administering the contract.

Miller, who is a finalist for the city manager position in Encinitas, Calif., said he was searching for a way to recognize Walker for her dedication and skill in her work for the city.

The issue was discussed at a Sept. 7 closed session of the City Council.

“This was a long-term contract which provided for certain reimbursables. It gave the ability to accommodate,” Miller said.

“To the extent that I erred, I exercised poor judgment by agreeing to view the claim for health payments as a reimbursable. I don’t think it was improper. It seemed appropriate for someone who has been serving the city for a number of years. I exercised some managerial discretion, but in retrospect, had I known it would cause so much trouble, I would not have authorized it.”

Miller did note, however, as did City Attorney Catherine DiCamillo, that the checks were public knowledge. They went through the identical procedure as any other city check and were approved by City Council on the regular monthly demands list.

Despite this public disclosure and the council’s approval of the checks, Miller apologized for any perceived misconduct on his part.

“Based upon the fact that I take my job and my responsibility toward the City Council very seriously, and to the extent that I did anything that caused them to lose confidence in me as city manager, I did in fact apologize,” Miller said. “I have done what I can to repair that relationship and believe that for the most part it has been successful. I acted in good faith. What was done was done with full public disclosure, and when the City Council expressed their disapproval, it stopped. “

Although Crawford remains adamant that both Miller and Walker should resign, Laine said she feels Miller understood City Council concerns, and that was enough.

“I am satisfied that the city manager understands that the council is serious that contracts be carried out as agreed upon – and that he understands this was a breech of contract,” Laine said. “The ethical response is that the money should be returned to the city. But the matter of the city manager approving the checks is a personnel issue that City Council has dealt with appropriately in closed session.”

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around the Lake Tahoe Basin and beyond make the Tahoe Tribune's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.

Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User