Pushing for a police contract Council didn’t want sealed it
By Maggie Q. Thompson and Austin Sanders, 11:05AM, Wed. Feb. 15, 2023
City Manager Spencer Cronk, whose role in Austin is to oversee city operations much like a CEO, was fired in a 10-1 vote this morning. The decision will take effect tomorrow, Feb. 16, when former City Manager Jesús Garza, an ally of Mayor Kirk Watson, will be appointed as Interim City Manager.
Cronk’s taking about a half a million in severance pay with him ($463,000, which accounts for his recently increased salary plus other benefits).
Council heard from about 14 public speakers before voting to oust Cronk, most of whom spoke in favor of that decision. Now, they are hearing from a much larger number of speakers ahead of a vote that will direct staff to negotiate a one-year extension of the labor contract between the city and Austin Police Association. Tensions over the police contract, with Cronk and APA favoring a four-year renewal of the agreement, was a primary factor in Cronk’s firing. But when Cronk attempted to push through a four-year contract with watered down police oversight shortly after Mayor Kirk Watson called an item to discuss Cronk’s job performance after Winter Storm Mara, the city manager’s fate was sealed. The move went against Council’s expressed intent to approve a one-year extension to the current contract so the longer-term contract could take into account police oversight measures voters may approve in the May 6 election.
“Let me be clear, we are not going to do our business like this. It stops today,” Watson said after the vote. “The outcomes are too important. We as a council want to help our community … begin to hear each other and maybe even trust each other a little more than we did today.”
Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison, who was the only CM to vote against firing Cronk, declined to comment on her decision.
Pick up tomorrow’s issue for more on this developing story.
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