The Alliance City Council voted at their meeting on Jan. 21 to approve a contract with Tarrah Johnson to take the reins as the new City Clerk.
Johnson, who has been an employee of the city for nine years is set to take over for Linda Jines, who announced her retirement at a previous meeting, on March 21. The contract includes a severance package that includes payment on regular city pay days for two months “in the case of termination for reasons other than Just Cause, resignation, or change from a council-manager form of government.” The severance would also include non-leave benefits for the duration of the severance.
Council Member Annora Bentley asked about the necessity of having a contract for the position of city clerk, which is one of two positions appointed by the city council, emphasizing her support for Johnson to take the office of clerk.
“(The League of Nebraska Municipalities) told me it is not a common practice in Nebraska,” said Bentley. “Very few clerks in Nebraska have a contract. Contracts are usually reserved for city managers. Tarrah, first off, I want to tell you I’m not saying any of that because I don’t want you to be city clerk, because I do. I am happy to have you take that position, and I also would like to thank you for taking the initiative to get your certification.
“I want to make sure that we set you up for success in it, and I’m afraid of what offering a contract with certain stipulations that no other department head can have might hurt you with your relationship to them,” Bentley said. “The city leadership team has to act as a team, and I’m afraid that if we give one person a severance package and the ability to not have to participate in the classification grid program, that sets them aside from what all the other department heads are entitled to. That makes me fearful for what kind of relationship you might have with them.”
Bentley noted that some department heads who do not have the opportunities outlined in the city clerk contract have worked for the city for several years.
“I’m not inclined to participate in this contract,” said Bentley. “I would just like to offer you the job without the contract.”
Mayor Mike Dafney said cities such as Chadron and Gering have contracts with their clerk. Citing Johnson’s qualifications, Dafney said he would like to pursue a contract with her.
Council Member Earl Jones, who originally made a motion to enter into a contract with Johnson, said the contract is meant to protect her from a change in council members due to election.
“That’s why they have contracts,” said Jones. “It didn’t seem fair to me. At least other people have supervisors over them, and there is something to protect them in that chain of command. An election could happen, and three new city council members could come on and they could fire the city manager and the city clerk, and there is no recourse.”
Jones noted the contract with Johnson would be a form aof job security and a sign of appreciation.
“It was a way to give these people something without costing the city money,” Jones said.
Johnson said she would feel more comfortable having the protection offered by a contract.
“I feel like I’m confident with my relationships with my coworkers and department heads,” Johnson said. “I'm humble in having this position, and I’m grateful to have the opportunity to continue to serve the citizens of Alliance. I’m passionate about my community, and I will do the best I can to serve my community, my coworkers, my council. I just want to do what’s best for everybody, and I want to do what’s best for me.”
The council members voted in favor of approving the contract, with the exception of Bentley, who voted against the contract. Dafney welcomed Johnson to the team.
Johnson expressed her gratitude to council, and thanked Jines for the training and support she has shown.