City without administrator
Leada DeVaney, Hartselle Enquirer
Less than two years after he was hired as city administrator, Ferrell Vest's contract was terminated Tuesday night.
Vest received 30 days' notice, as well as 25 percent of his salary as severance. Vest earns some $63,000 a year.
City Attorney Larry Madison said Vest's contract allows the council to terminate him without providing a reason.
(The decision) "is vested solely in the discretion of the council," Madison said. "No cause or reason has to be stated."
Under the terms of his contract, Vest is not eligible for a personnel hearing or appeal.
Still, Vest's termination has prompted questions from some on the council who feel the move wasn't right.
"How can the council fire him (Vest) for his performance and say it's unsatisfactory when we've never discussed it," Councilman Tom Chappell said. "It's my understanding the mayor gave Vest an excellent performance evaluation. Why wasn't the council privy to this evaluation?"
Chappell and Don Hall were the only votes in favor of keeping Vest. Dick Carter, Frank Jones and newly appointed councilman Alvin Abercrombie voted in favor of termination.
Mayor Clif Knight did not vote, a move than angered Chappell.
"I'm amazed as how you could abstain," Chappell told the mayor. "You more than any of us worked closely with him (Vest). I cannot find any explanation for your decision to abstain."
Knight was also criticized for not letting members of the audience speak before the council voted on Vest's future.
Hall said he felt anyone with concerns with Vest's performance should have discussed them with the city administrator.
"Mr. Vest did an excellent job," Hall said. "A lot of people don't see that unless they come down here."
Vest's termination came at the beginning of an acrimonious meeting in front of a packed city council chamber, filled mostly with those supporting Vest.
Vest was hired almost two years ago after the city council expressed a desire to have someone handle day-to-day management of the city. The mayor's job in Hartselle is technically a part-time position.
Vest is the city's former police chief. He was 17 months away from being fully vested in his state retirement.