Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Tuesday, Jan. 16 @ 6:49 p.m.
Brookings Council Terminates Janell Howard, Appoints Police Chief As Acting City Manager
Janell Howard is out as Brookings City Manager.
A new City Council came to the unanimous conclusion to immediately terminate Howard’s employment without cause on Tuesday.
Though this decision came more than a year after Howard pleaded no contest to a theft violation in connection with a July 2022 shoplifting incident at Fred Meyer, Councilors praised her dedication to the city.
“I’d just like to note that it’s going to be a big challenge for the city to replace Janell,” said Clayton Malmberg, one of three Councilors appointed following a recall election in November. “I know Janell to be a very hard worker and very dedicated to the city. I also know there are these other issues. That’s not really part of the discussion, but I did want to take a minute to recognize and appreciate all of Janell’s hard work.”
The Brookings City Council unanimously appointed Police Chief Kelby McCrae to serve as acting city manager and directed the city attorney to draw up a short-term agreement with the chief on those duties.
Councilors also directed staff to begin searching for an city manager pro tem and a long-term replacement immediately. Mayor Isaac Hodges said he wanted McCrae to be able to return to his police chief duties as soon as possible.
Hodges also asked two of his colleagues to be along with McCrae to meet with city staff Wednesday morning.
“I know the police chief and all the department heads have a lot on their plate already,” Hodges said. “Assuming everything works out I’d like [him] to move back into his regular position as soon as possible.”
Council President Andy Martin, who agreed to meet with city staff on Wednesday, pointed out that Howard’s employment has been an issue he and Hodges have wrestled with since they took office about a year ago.
Martin estimated meeting in closed session about 2 dozen times to discuss the city manager position.
“Most important for me is our responsibility to the voters,” he said. “We have a great staff that works very hard. This may create some difficulties for some of our staff members. But our ultimate responsibility is to the taxpayers and the citizens of Brookings, and they spoke overwhelming in the direction they wanted to see the city take.”
It was Martin who asked City Attorney Lori Cooper last month to negotiate a termination agreement with Howard.
On Nov. 7, Brookings residents voted overwhelmingly to oust then-mayor Ron Hedenskog and councilors Ed Schreiber and Michelle Morosky due to their decision on Jan. 30, 2023 to reinstate Howard as city manager.
Despite a provision in the city charter that a special election must be held to restore a quorum on the City Council, Hedenskog and Morosky resigned on Nov. 13 before the recall election results were certified. Schreiber presided over the meeting, though he too had been recalled.
Hedenskog and Morosky’s resignation led to Hodges and Martin appointing Kristi Fulton to Morosky’s vacant seat. On Dec. 5, Hodges, Martin and Fulton appointed Malmberg and Pereda to the remaining two seats.
After pleading no contest to the reduced theft charge, Howard was fined $500 and ordered to pay $15.98 in restitution to Fred Meyer.