After an hour and 15 minutes in closed session Pulaski Town Council emerged to announce Town Manager John Hawley will be on leave until May 7, which is the date of the next council meeting.
The announcement was made to an overflow crowd in Council Chambers after rumors had been circulating of some council members’ intentions to dismiss Hawley at the meeting. Hawley has been employed by the town for almost 39 years. He was named town manager in 2002.
Mayor Jeff Worrell said, “Town Manager John Hawley, due to his extended tenure with the town of Pulaski, has built up considerable leave and vacation time and will, for personal reasons, be off until May 7. Thank you.”
The manager was not observed communicating directly with the council while they were in closed session. Town attorney David Warburton was observed leaving the closed session to confer outside the council chambers with Hawley’s attorney before returning to the session after Hawley’s attorney spoke privately with Hawley.
Pulaski citizen Jennifer White stood up and called out, “Excuse me, could you tell me what that means for our town manager? Does that mean (May 7) is his last day of employment? Or does that mean he will work through to his retirement period?”
Worrell replied, “He will be off until May 7.”
“What happens after May 7?” asked White. After a pause from council, she said, “You don’t have an answer.”
“Well, I’m very disappointed in this,” White continued. “And you know, you all were elected, and you can all be not elected again, and also maybe we could get a petition to have you dismissed. Thank you very much.”
Her speech was met with applause from the crowd.
In the hallway after her speech, White commented as the crowd filed out, “I’m a taxpayer, I’m an active person in this community, I have been here, I chose to come here with my husband (Pulaski Economic Development Director John White), and I’m very disappointed in the actions of this town council. It is just totally immoral, in relation to the actions of the way you would treat an employee that has been here for over 30-some years. It is ridiculous.”
She turned to Charles Wade, a former Pulaski mayor, who was also present in the hallway, saying, “I know you’re involved in this. I don’t care. He is a human being. He’s been here a long time and you just don’t treat people like that. I don’t want to talk about it.”
Wade replied, “I don’t know what part of this I’m supposed to be involved with.”
White said, “I think you know.”
After the meeting, some council members were asked for comment on Hawley’s leave until May.
Councilman Greg East declined comment, saying, “I’m not really at liberty to say anything.”
Council member Dave Clark said, “I’m not willing to (comment). It’s a personal decision and he has the time coming to him, so.” He added, “I hope he gets to play a lot of golf.”
Vice Mayor Joseph Goodman said, “It (Hawley’s supposed intention to take time off) was communicated to us earlier. And as far as I know he’ll be back to work on the eighth. I know of nothing else that would prohibit him from returning on the eighth at this point.”
He added, “I look forward to having John back on the eighth and getting to work and getting some stuff done for our town citizens.”
Mayor Worrell said, “I don’t have to tell you, there’s a lot of rumors, a lot of talk going around this town, and John’s accumulated significant time off, and just feels like it’s a good time to take it. He was informed (of the leave) before it was announced.” Worrell indicated that there was communication between council and the manager during the session but declined to elaborate.
Hawley himself said, “I’m not going to make any comments. I’m trying to tie up business tonight.”
Assistant Town Manager Dave Quesenberry, who will be acting town manager in Hawley’s absence, said only, “We’ll just do the best we can.”