Ashland’s Former City Manager, Joe Lessard, Accepts Reduced Severance, Leaves Immedately

Lessard Accepts Reduced Severance, Leaves Immediately


Departing Ashland City Manager Joe Lessard has agreed to a reduced severance arrangement with the city Council.  And, while he will be on call to consult on city issues with the city through Jan. 31, 2024, his last day was yesterday.


Under a three-page agreement unanimously approved by the Council at a five-minute meeting Friday evening, Lessard will receive an estimated $60,000 in severance, one third of the figure in his employment contract.


The agreement, however, also provides that he will receive full pay through Jan. 31, health insurance through April 30 and be eligible for employee benefits including vacation time “pursuant to his employment contract.”  He’s giving up his $400 a month car allowance. 


Mayor Tonya Graham, members of the City Council, the City Attorney and Lessard all refused to put a total figure on the overall cost of the agreement.  A rough estimate, however,  puts the figure in the range of $120,000. 


Deputy City Manager Sabrina Cotta was instructed by Council to put forward at a future Council meeting plans for operation of city government in the absence of a city manager and to outline the process for filling the position.  She is expected to be a candidate, and already has the support of some councilors and likely Mayor Graham, sources told The Chronicle.


Cotta’s most recent job before being hired here nearly two years ago was director of administrative and internal services for the Pueblo West, CO, government where she supervised 14 staffers.  Pueblo West provides limited services in an unincorporated part of Pueblo County.  She holds a master’s degree in political science from the University of Arizona and a master of public administration from the University of Alaska. 


Over the next three months, the agreement with Lessard requires him to “remain available to the city to provide city staff with his expertise and knowledge in operations.”


The City government and Lessard also agreed “they will not make any statements (or encourage or facilitate others to make statements), whether written or oral that disparage or criticize the other, their officers, employees or affiliates. This includes, but is not limited to, any negative comments on social media, in job interviews or to other employees.”


Further, the agreement provides that the city will tender a “neutral reference” should the 69-year-old Lessard seek further employment.  “If requested for additional information, the city will provide a statement to the effect, and no more, than that the employee made valuable contributions to the city during his tenure, that he resigned voluntarily for reasons unrelated to performance and that any further inquiries should be directed to employee.”


Mayor Graham said she will be releasing a public statement on Lessard’s departure tomorrow.  During the short meeting, Councilors Bob Kaplan and Dylan Bloom expressed their appreciation for Lessard’s service.


His resignation came after a lengthy evaluation of his service as city manager in a Council closed-door executive session on Oct. 17.  Subsequently, he met with Mayor Graham and Councilor Paula Hyatt.  His resignation became known Tuesday when last night’s special Council meeting was scheduled with his departure package the only item on the agenda. 
Lessard refused to comment on reasons for his resignation and the agreement with the city.

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