Amid 'uncomfortable situation,' Auburn manager fired after month on the job

Thursday, July 13th, 2017 - Resume

AUBURN, MI — Only a month on the job, Auburn Administrator Harry Staven was fired after multiple employees reported he created an “uncomfortable situation” inside City Hall.

The unanimous decision came at the commission’s Monday, July 10, meeting. Staven was hired for the Auburn job in April and started the position June 1.

Members of the commission and the town’s mayor aren’t saying much about the termination, but said the seriousness of the city employees’ complaints required the elected body to act quickly.

“It was one of those situations where you got a very serious feeling that everyone was going to quit if we kept him,” said Commissioner Matt Charbonneau.

Now the commission is re-evaluating the position and hope to hire someone new this fall. Mayor Lee Kilbourn is serving as interim administrator in the meantime.

Discussions about Staven’s termination took place in a closed session Monday, but the 5-0 vote was done publicly, city officials said. Commissioners Charbonneau and Jan Dzurka were not present for Monday’s vote.

Staven, who earned a salary of $70,000 and was on a 90-day probation period, declined to comment for this story.

After Staven signed on as administrator, members of the commission received an email from a city employee stating what was happening internally, Commissioner Matt Charbonneau said. He added he was also personally pulled aside by an employee who described an “uncomfortable situation” in the workplace.

Charbonneau declined to comment on the specific nature of the complaint. The Bay City Times-MLive has filed a Freedom of Information Act request for Staven’s personnel file.

Kilbourn, the town’s mayor, also declined to give specifics on Staven’s firing.

“It just didn’t work out,” he said.

Following interviews in April, Kilbourn and other members of the commission said Staven’s management and financial experience fit the bill for the 2,100-person town.

But looking back at their decision, they admit his lengthy resume should have been cause for concern.

“It wasn’t a concern to us in the beginning,” Kilbourn said. “In hindsight, maybe it should have been.”

In his application for the position, Staven listed 17 governmental positions that included stops in Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Wyoming, New Mexico, Ohio and Kansas. The resume did not include dates or salaries for each position.

Auburn conducted a nationwide search for its next administrator. Betty Owen, a former MBS International Airport manager, assisted with the search process, according to The Midland Daily News.

During the hiring process, Kilbourn said he spoke to people familiar with Staven who vouched for his municipal experience.

“Sometimes you don’t know until you have the person working for you how well it’s going to go,” Kilbourn said. “We’re going back to the drawing board.”

Commissioner Ken Charbonneau, the father of Commissioner Matt Charbonneau, said he thought Stavin was going to fit Auburn’s needs.

“We made a mistake,” he admitted Wednesday, July 12, in an interview.

His son said no one on the commission thought to search Staven’s past on the Internet during the hiring process.

“Since then, some articles were brought to our attention,” he said. “We fumbled the ball on this one.”

Staven was fired as the city manager of Lakeside, Oregon, in December 2012, after only four months on the job, according to The World, a newspaper in coastal Oregon. A council member there said Staven “mislead the council about his abilities,” according to a January 2013 article.

A January 2008 article from The Daily Record in Ellensburg, Washington, shows Staven was was no longer employed by the city of Roslyn after two months on the job as the town’s clerk and treasurer. It was reported he left for other professional opportunities.

And in May 2004, Staven was fired from his village administrator job in Corrales, New Mexico, after being hired in January of that year, according to The Albuquerque Journal. The Journal reported Staven was on suspension at the time.

Staven was a finalist for the city manager position in Muskegon Heights, Michigan, last year, but was not hired.

Auburn officials are now discussing changing the administrator job to a part-time position, Kilbourn said.

“Maybe in a small town, you don’t need that person sitting in that desk five days a week,” he said.

Auburn is the second Bay County town searching for a new manager. Pinconning City Manager William Jasura abruptly resigned last month during a meeting about the city’s police contract.

Kilbourn said Staven took his termination “like a gentleman.”

“He cleared his personal items from his office, turned in his keys and left,” he said.

While Staven declined to comment on his termination to MLive on Wednesday, he did say, “Auburn is a wonderful city.”

MLive Lead Reporter Andrew Dodson contributed to this report.

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