Austin City Council members will consider a severance package for City Manager Spencer Cronk during their Feb. 15 meeting, as well as a transition plan for an interim city manager, based on their updated council agenda.
In a Feb. 11 statement, Cronk said he was not made aware of the posting in advance and that he remains focused on the issue of public safety as well as finalizing a contract with the Austin Police Association.
"This meeting was originally posted as a postponed discussion regarding a proposed new one-year meet and confer agreement with the Austin Police Association. However, since the posting of these Saturday night addendum items relate to my employment and severance benefits, I will simply reiterate that I remain Austin’s city manager and no actions have been taken by this new mayor and council to change my responsibilities or role. I continue to be focused on serving this community and leading our dedicated workforce," he said.
Posted Feb. 10 at 3:30 p.m.
A majority of Austin City Council members are pushing to cut ties with City Manager Spencer Cronk following a closed executive session in which officials evaluated his employment, City Hall sources confirmed Feb. 10.
Council’s regular meeting Feb. 9 concluded with an executive session called to weigh the “terms and conditions” of Cronk’s service with the city. The discussion-only meeting was proposed last week by Mayor Kirk Watson in response to Austin’s handling of emergency operations following Winter Storm Mara.
“To all our Austin citizens who are furious about the ongoing power outage, you're right. There must be accountability,” Watson said in a statement Feb. 6.
As of Feb. 10, most council members have not publicly shared intentions to fire Cronk, and no action on the topic is scheduled.
District 4 Council Member Chito Vela voiced frustration with Cronk and called for his replacement during council’s Feb. 9 meeting amid debate over ongoing police labor negotiations and how Cronk handled the situation.
“These actions have caused me to lose my faith in your leadership of the city. I do believe it is time for a new city manager,” Vela told Cronk during that discussion.
Through a city spokesperson, Cronk declined to comment on council’s deliberations and the status of his employment.
Citing the sensitive nature of executive session deliberations, several officials also declined to comment or detail their stances on the matter in the aftermath of the closed meeting.
“The members of the City Council had a productive executive session on Thursday night. I’m going to honor that process and won’t comment on the matters that were discussed,” Watson said.
“The mayor pro tem will not be commenting on discussions made in executive session,” said Ed Scruggs, policy aide to District 8 Council Member Paige Ellis.
“We had a productive meeting in closed session talking about the terms and conditions of the city manager's employment, and I have no comment about those discussions,” District 7 Council Member Leslie Pool said.
"I do not want to undermine the sacred nature of council's executive session and discuss / confirm or deny what we talked about specifically. It makes me uncomfortable that my colleagues would do that,” District 6 Council Member Mackenzie Kelly said in a statement.
Cronk has served as Austin’s city manager since 2018 and earns an annual salary of $388,190.40 after City Council approved a pay hike for him in December—a raise of $38,188.80, or nearly 11% over his previous salary.
If council decides to pursue a leadership change, officials could vote on ending Cronk's employment in the coming days.
If terminated in a majority vote, Cronk would earn his full fiscal year 2022-23 salary in a lump sum payment as well as ongoing benefits. The city was not able to provide information on how Cronk’s payment and benefits would be affected by his resignation instead of a council-approved separation as of press time.
Ellis, District 10 Council Member Alison Alter and former Council Member Kathie Tovo abstained from that 8-0-3 vote for a salary increase in December. At that time, Alter was the lone council member to specifically note her dissatisfaction with Cronk’s management and the culture in his office, concerns she said had been building behind closed doors for an extended time.
“For me, one of my most important jobs as a council member, if not my most important job as a council member, is holding the city manager accountable and providing that strategic direction. And it is the city manager’s job to run the city and to keep our workforce happy,” Alter said in December. “We are at a point where we have to recognize that there are challenges in this workplace under this manager’s stewardship. We have to figure out what we’re going to do about that.”