Siloam Springs city directors voted to terminate the contract of city administrator Phillip Patterson during the city board meeting on Tuesday, March 7.
At the end of the meeting, Director David Allen called for an executive session to discuss employment matters. Following a 90-minute executive session, the board reconvened and voted 4-3 to terminate Patterson's contract, effective immediately, and that all severance and benefits provided by the current contract will be followed per the contract.
An explanation for Patterson's firing was not given by the directors at the meeting, nor was any given in follow-up interviews later in the week.
Details of Patterson's contract state that upon resignation, termination or death Patterson or his legal personal representative will receive severance pay equal to three months of employment following the end of employment and pay him for unused vacation and sick leave in accordance with the city's personnel policy.
After six months of employment, Patterson or his representative would receive six months of employment, the contract states.
The city shall pay Patterson's premiums for health, dental and vision coverage for six months following the end of employment as well as paying him for unused vacation and sick leave in accordance with the city's personnel policy, the contract states.
In 2020, Patterson's contract was amended and now states if Patterson is terminated without cause the city will pay his salary and all applicable benefits listed above for an additional six months, the contract states.
In November of the previous year Patterson's contract was extended for another year making his salary at the time of termination was $150,352 with his annual raise at the time.
After his termination and per the terms of his contract, Patterson will receive a lump sum payout of $75,181.60, according to an email from city accountant Crystal McNutt.
The city also paid for Patterson's medical, dental and vision in the amounts of $4,890 for medical, $357 for dental and $85.32 for vision, the email states. Total paid out for insurance is $5,333, the email states.
Patterson also received $11,566 for sick time payout, $6,789 for vacation payout, $578 for float day payout and a longevity bonus for $95.
The total compensation at termination was $99,544 and is scheduled to be paid on March 24, McNutt said.
Patterson will receive his normal compensation for six additional months beginning April 6 and running through September 22, minus the $95 longevity bonus, for a total of $80,514, McNutt said.
Directors Allen, Betsy Blair, Lesa Rissler and Ken Wiles voted to terminate the contract. Directors Reid Carroll, Mindy Hunt and Carol Smiley voted against termination. Allen made the motion, which was seconded by Rissler.
During the discussion on the motion, Carroll, Hunt and Smiley praised Patterson for his work.
"I have full faith and confidence in Philip Patterson and the work that he has done and is doing," Carroll said.
Directors Hunt and Smiley echoed Carroll's words, saying they appreciated working with Patterson for the last four years and have full confidence in his ability.
"I think you bring a lot to the city of Siloam," Hunt said. "I've appreciated your efforts and what you've accomplished, and I have full support of your continued employment in Siloam Springs."
Following the vote for termination, Allen made a motion to name Police Chief Allan Gilbert as interim city administrator. Gilbert, who was in attendance, declined the position.
After going through a list of city personnel underneath Patterson, Allen made a motion to name Finance Director Christina Petriches as the interim director if she accepts the position, which was seconded by Rissler.
Petriches had already left for the night, and Mayor Judy Nation was to discuss the matter with Petriches the following day.
Petriches accepted the position of interim city administrator, according to Communications Manager Megan Whitworth.
In a phone interview on Wednesday, March 8, Patterson said he plans to take some time with family and fish.
"It is clear that this city board wanted to go a different direction," Patterson said.
Blair and Rissler said in phone interviews Wednesday that they could not comment on personnel issues due to state law and had no other comment at this point.
Allen said he did not have any other comment at this point but did say that the board was ready for new blood.
"The two previous administrators served their time well and understood when the board was ready for a change," Allen said.
He also said the city is honoring the stipulations of Patterson's contract.
Wiles said in a phone interview on Wednesday that he could not comment on personnel issues. Wiles also said that now the city needs to take the next step and find a new administrator and that the city is in good hands and is running fine.
In phone interviews on Wednesday Carroll and Smiley said that they do not know why he was fired and that they will still support Patterson.
"He was a visionary and had a true heart for the city," Smiley said.
Nation said that she hates to see the city lose him, but that the board chose to let him go and the city will move forward and select a new city administrator.
Hunt did not immediately respond to requests for a comment.