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Assembly to meet tonight, consider Dinley’s future

Jim Dinley

Jim Dinley

Members of the Sitka Assembly will meet tonight — for the third time — to discuss the future of the city administrator.

Jim Dinley got a negative review during his annual evaluation by the Assembly last week. After the meeting on April 16, Mayor Mim McConnell said the Assembly would have another executive session to discuss how to handle it.

That was supposed to happen Tuesday, but meetings aren’t allowed to go past 10:30 p.m.

So when the meeting hit its deadline, McConnell called a recess. The Assembly is expected to pick up where it left off tonight.

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Officially, no one has said what, if anything, might happen to Dinley, but there are signs. His office is packed up. His nameplate no longer sits on the lip of his desk. The Air Force memorabilia is gone from the credenza along the inside wall. And what is usually a workspace full of memos and notepads was nearly empty on Tuesday afternoon.

The year 2013 has been turbulent for Sitka’s municipal administrator. In January, a city employee filed a harassment complaint against him. An outside attorney investigated and said Dinley used inappropriate comments on two different occasions. The Assembly suspended him for two weeks.

Then, came his annual review. It was on the calendar before the harassment complaint, but the timing put it two days after he returned from suspension. It took more than three hours, and afterward, Mayor Mim McConnell said simply that the Assembly gave Dinley an “unsatisfactory evaluation,” and that it would meet at a future date to figure out how to deal with that.

That brings us to Centennial Hall and the public comment period of the Sitka Assembly meeting on Tuesday.

“All these jobs that are going on in the city, and ones that have started earlier, and ones that are going to happen — they would not be happening if it wasn’t for that man,” former Sitka Mayor Cheryl Westover told the Assembly. “And this wonderful new staff that has come online since he’s been here. He’s created a wonderful crew in the city — things that are clicking along. I think our city’s a lot better for having Jim here.”

Westover also wondered why she was never contacted during the investigation into Dinley’s actions.

“So I don’t feel the investigation was thorough or fair. I feel I should have been questioned,” she said. “I’m sure my name was brought up at least once, if not twice, and maybe 10 or 20 times. I think I had a lot of information to offer on the investigation.”

She urged the Assembly to think hard about whatever it was about to do, and said the city doesn’t need to go through a transition in leadership when it’s in the middle of complicated projects.

Through all of it — Westover’s testimony, the evaluation last week, and multiple requests by reporters to talk about what’s going on — Dinley has refused to comment.

He’s been municipal administrator in Sitka since 2008.

The Assembly is scheduled to meet tonight at 5 p.m. to continue its discussion at Centennial Hall. Most of it is expected to take place behind closed doors, in executive session. KCAW will report on any Assembly action, which must happen in public.

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