It would appear that the rumors that William Kraus was attempting to rescind his retirement as Oak Hill City Manager were true. As reported in the Tennessean, William Kraus, who resigned his position as City Manager on June 18, will attempt to force a vote on his retirement at the next Oak Hill Commissioners meeting on July 17.
At issue, are political actions Kraus made in support of since defeated Commissioner Tommy Jacobs which would appear to be illegal based on Tenn. Code Ann. 6-21-106. Kraus asserts that he cleared his political action in support of Jacobs on two separate occasions with the City Attorney. Both the City Attorney and the Mayor of Oak Hill reject his account.
In a letter to Oak Hill residents dated June 21, Kraus recounts the circumstances that lead to his retirement:
[O]n June 16th, the Mayor ordered me to his house where he and the City Attorney told me that I had violated a little known state statute that forbids the City Manager from assisting a candidate for the Board of Commissioners. The Mayor then told me that I had to either resign or retire immediately. Keep in mind, that the Mayor was acting alone, and as I later learned, without the knowledge or consent of the other two commissioners - Commissioner Ray Throckmorton and former commissioner Tommy Jacobs.
I agreed to retire though, despite being advised by five well-known and renowned attorneys in town who all agreed that forcing me to leave my position for this sort of violation was totally unnecessary.
Mayor Alsup disputes the above accusation as well as the contents of the letter in their totality. Alsup explained to Post Politics that there was no forced retirement. Alsup asserts that Kraus was simply made aware of his violation of the code, and instead of facing the very vote he now seeks, Kraus elected to resign.
"Dr. Kraus was advised of the illegality of his actions and that the consequences for such actions could be dismissal by the board. He chose to resign," explains Alsup.
Alsup also disputes Kraus' allegation that a political operative was hired by the City at $60,000 dollars a year. The operative in question, Rob Ikard, the former Tennessee state director for the National Federation of Independent Business, is an independent contractor. He works on a per project basis for which he can be paid no more than $10,0000 per project according to City regulations. No more than that amount has been paid per project to Ikard according to Alsup.
The forcing of a vote of the Board Of Commissioners is an interesting route for Kraus. There are only three commissioners in Oak Hill, two of which have signed a statement addressed to the Citizens of Oak Hill that states, among other things, the following:
Kraus chose to resign effective June 18, 2008, and is no longer an employee of the City of Oak Hill.
Bill Kraus did a lot of great things for the City of Oak Hill. However, we could not ignore what we were advised was a violation of state law.
They say every battle is won before it is ever fought. In the case of Bill Kraus, this would seem most definitely to be case.
"Dr. Kraus resigned and we accepted that resignation. He no longer comes into the offices. He no longer serves as City Manager. An interim city manager has been appointed and we are actively seeking a permanent replacement," explains Alsup, "There will be no vote."
William Kraus dodged a bullet when the town of Oak Hill allowed him to stay on as City Manager after it was revealed that he had a felony conviction in his past. At this point, while the will to rescind exists no way to do so does. The clock has run out.
There will be no vote.
UPDATE: Dr. Bill Kraus responds:
I am now advised by an attorney that specializes in employment law that my initial "forced" retirement, dated June 18th was never legally acted upon by the Board of Commissioners at their monthly meeting on June 19th. Thus, in his opinion, I am still City Manager until the July 17th meeting which is the next legally constituted meeting.
In the meantime, the telephone and email response to my letter of June 21st has, to put it mildly, been overwhelming and I am truly grateful. I am in the process of preparing a letter to the Board of Commissioners requesting that they take the legal action that they have not, to date,taken and that the Board meeting be relocated to larger facilities to handle those who do want to attend.