Former deputy city manager declines participation in third party review of his dismissal

Kayla Desroches/KMXT

A former deputy city manager who was dismissed from his position without explanation has declined to participate in a third party review of the decision.

Matt Van Daele was hired in August 2017 and worked with city staff at the same time as he served on the Kodiak Island Borough Assembly. While some members of the assembly viewed this as a potential conflict of interest, the issue has not been expressly connected to Van Daele’s dismissal in May of this year.

The City Council decided to pursue a third party review and has been considering a contract with Anchorage-based Richard Birdsall for up to $5,000. According to the city clerk, the investigation requires Van Daele’s written consent, which he has so far not submitted.

But he did submit a letter last week. In it, he writes he’s not interested in participating in the review.

He writes that he was dismissed during a probationary period, which means that the city manager does not need to give an explanation. He also states that elected officials encouraged him to apply to the deputy city manager position and remained actively involved behind the scenes while the assembly was discussing the conflict of interest.

Toward the end of the letter, Van Daele offers to write an exit report that would in part delve into how the city can better maintain checks and balances within the city staff in order to avoid the “‘strong mayor’ form.”

At a city council regular meeting on Thursday, the council considered the contract with the third-party reviewer.

Councilman John Whiddon introduced an amendment that, in order for the investigation to go forward, Van Daele must sign a release to allow Birdsall to look at his personnel file. The amendment passed 4 – 1 with Councilman Daniel McKenna-Foster against.

The council passed the contract, conditional upon Van Daele’s participation.

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