Bemidji Council votes 4-2 to terminate employment of City Manager Nate Mathews

After an occasionally-emotional meeting Monday, the Bemidji City Council voted 4-2 to terminate City Manager Nate Mathews’ employment.

At-large council member Audrey Thayer made the motion, reading the full resolution that did not explicitly include the summary of the closed performance evaluation last week. 

The written resolution obtained after-the-fact states:

The City Council determines that the reasons for the removal are as follows:

  1. City Councilmembers have lost confidence and lack trust in City Manager Nate Mathews’ ability and willingness to completely and effectively be the chief administrative officer of the city, be responsible to the council for the administration of the city’s affairs, and move the City forward.
  2. This loss of confidence and lack of trust has primarily resulted from:
    1. City Manager Nate Mathews’ certain insufficient, untimely, unclear, selective, and unprofessional communications with City Council members, City employees, and the public on substantive City business
    2. Concerns expressed about such communications and related conduct by members of the public and others with whom the City works with
    3. City Manager Mathews reluctance to sufficiently, completely, and uniformly communicate with City Council members on all substantive City business and comply with City Council direction.

Mathews is currently on leave, with his last day, according to the resolution, being May 3. 

Mayor Jorge Prince and Council Member Lynn Eaton were designated as the council’s representatives and point of contact for the rest of Mathews’ employment with the City.

Eaton and council member Emelie Rivera were the only nay votes.

City Clerk Michelle Miller was assigned to perform the responsibilities of the city manager with an increase in her salary.

When this resolution was added to the agenda, after a brief recess, one citizen, professor Emerita Mary Ann Reitmeir, addressed the council with her concerns about this process. 

In other business, the council awarded a bid for Northern Paving for the 2023 Street Renewal Project on Mississippi Avenue.

This project, from 5th to 12th Streets, would not have additional street assessments since these addresses were levied about 20 years ago.

The council also held the first reading of an ordinance amending the city’s rental code and a public hearing for Bar 209’s seasonal street cafe permit.

The council has another meeting scheduled this week, a joint session with Northern Township to further discuss extending city sewer and water around the north side of Lake Bemidji.

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