Sitka’s municipal attorney Robin Schmid was summarily dismissed Thursday afternoon (5-5-16), after the assembly received a letter from Schmid’s lawyer suggesting that she had been improperly asked to resign.
The letter was written by Ketchikan attorney Clay Keene, and was not immediately available to the public.
During testimony at Thursday’s special meeting, however, Keene spoke in conciliatory terms about the assembly’s decision to fire Schmid during her closed-door evaluation on April 19.
“And I would hope that this meeting provides the assembly the opportunity to make better what I would call a rushed decision on the part of the assembly in asking Robin for her resignation.”
Keene said that Schmid would be willing to work for the duration of her contract, or at least until January 5, when she would become vested in the public employee retirement system. Otherwise, Schmid’s resignation was set to take effect on June 1.
But the assembly didn’t bite. Instead, the members who spoke felt it would be difficult to continue working with Schmid, now that she had retained an attorney of her own.
Steven Eisenbeisz thought it would be counterproductive to keep Schmid on.
“I feel, after what’s been presented in the letter, that it would be very difficult for someone in a situation as such to continue on in the best interest of the city.”
Member Tristan Guevin expressed similar thoughts. The assembly went on to vote 6-0 to appoint Brian Hanson as acting municipal attorney. Member Bob Potruzski was absent.
Mayor Mim McConnell then had the uncomfortable duty of informing Schmid — who was seated in her usual spot at the assembly table — that she was done. But Schmid did not go easily.
Here is the entirety of their exchange.
Mayor McConnell – So Robin at this time I’m going to have to ask you to step down from the table and we’ll have Mr. Hanson come up. This is how this works.
Schmid – Nothing has been tendered to me at all, regarding our last meeting. I haven’t been given a chance to speak at all. What the public’s going to be hearing, what they’re going to be thinking, is that there’s something outrageous in the letter. And what was in the letter was a request for conciliation. It was a letter that said, Look you are required under the contract to give me evaluations every April. That hasn’t been done. Up until this last evaluation, I had been given good evaluations — by some of you sitting here — that you liked my communication style. Sure, there’s been a change in some of the other assembly members, and maybe it was incumbent on me to try and reach out if my communication style wasn’t working for them, but that was never done. And it wasn’t done on the other end either. So basically what’s happened is, terminable at will or not, there’s a breach of contract.
Member Tristan Guevin – A point of order…
Mayor McConnell – I’d like to take a 5-minute break please.
Schmid eventually yielded her seat to acting attorney Hanson. Following the break, the assembly went into executive session for just under an hour to discuss Schmid’s letter. On returning to regular session, the assembly voted 5-1 to direct Hanson to work to resolve Schmid’s legal concerns, with Eisenbeisz opposed.
Schmid will be on administrative leave with pay until the end of the month. She’s been Sitka’s municipal attorney since February, 2013.