KALISPELL - A divided Kalispell City Council scared off the last of the out-of-town city manager candidates Monday, with Jeffrey Towery turning down a job offer made by city leaders.
Towery, a former city manager at towns in Oregon and New York, said the split on the council, combined with an unacceptable offer, forced him to refuse the post, according to city officials.
The council has been split 4-4 in recent weeks, with half backing Towery and half supporting fellow council member Gary Nystul. Last week, Norb Donahue cast a deciding vote to break the deadlock, saying he would support offering Towery the job in order to move the process along.
However, Donahue did reserve the right to continue to back Nystul if he wasn't satisfied with negotiations between the city and Towery.
Those negotiations never evolved because Towery rejected the city's deal outright, offering no counter bargain.
According to City Attorney Glen Neier, the city offered Towery $60,000 per year, "with no benefits to speak of." In addition, Neier said, the deal offered no "golden parachute," and came without a severance package for the first six months of employment.
According to Kalispell Mayor Bill Boharski, who backed Towery, it wouldn't be economically sound to reopen a manager search now, and he expects to offer Nystul a deal similar to the one extended to Towery. Boharski's vote, pivotal because of the split council, is expected to swing the city in favor of negotiating with Nystul.
Boharski earlier had promised to have a new manager in place by January, and Nystul appears to be the only viable candidate who can step in to fulfill that promise.
Former City Manager Clarence Krepps was fired last spring, shortly after Boharski and the new council took office. Boharski denied allegations that the firing was a power grab, insisting that he was committed to continuing with a city manager form of government.
Since the job opening was announced, Nystul has come under fire by some council members, who claim he is not qualified for the position.
Nystul, a certified public accountant, is former city financial officer.