Kenai City Manager Rick Koch applied for and was offered a job as Palmer’s new city manager.
However, after weeks of negotiations and three executive sessions with the Kenai City Council, he has signed an agreement to keep his position in Kenai.
News of his candidacy for the job in Palmer came as a surprise to some council members.
Koch interviewed for the Palmer job on April 3, two days before his scheduled vacation. Mayor Pat Porter said she met with Koch the next day and he told her he had turned down the offer.
During the Wednesday council meeting, council member Mike Boyle requested to go into executive session to discuss the city manager’s actions, but Koch, who participated telephonically during this portion of the council meeting, requested the conversation remain in open session.
Boyle said he was surprised to find out through the media that Koch had been offered the position without hearing from him first.
Boyle did not specify where he had first seen the news of Koch’s candidacy — however the Palmer City Council agenda for its April 15 special meeting contained Koch’s name and the Mat Su Valley Frontiersman reported on April 12 that Koch had been offered the job.
“I question whether he was dealing with us in good faith,” he said. “He interviewed with them after he accepted his new contract and didn’t address us as a council. It’s an issue that bothers me.”
Current Palmer City Manager Doug Griffin, who is retiring next month, said Koch interviewed for the job with city clerk Janette Bower and city attorney Michael Gatti on April 3.
Koch was the public works director for the city of Palmer before taking the city manager position in Kenai in 2006. According to a 2006 Peninsula Clarion article his annual salary for his first contract was $98,440.
The City of Palmer held a special meeting April 15 and, following an executive session, the Palmer City Council announced that Joe Hannan had been hired as the new city manager. Bower said Hannan agreed to a two-year contract for $110,000 per year, with the option for a one-year extention and will start on May 14.
Porter said the council was slow in negotiating Koch’s contract and she doesn’t blame him for looking elsewhere. She said he is happy in Kenai.
“It is positive that we have a city manager that is wanted in other municipalities in the state,” she said. “He turned down substantially more money to stay here.”
Council members Ryan Marquis, Terry Bookey, Brian Gabriel and Tim Navarre all said they reached out and called Koch when they heard Palmer had offered him the job. Each said they didn’t think Koch was deceitful and called the subject a non-issue. Gabriel said Koch did communicate his intentions with council and said Boyle should have picked up the phone if he had any concern.
“I don’t understand why we are talking about it,” Gabriel said. “We are fortunate that he decided to stay because Palmer could have lured him away.”
Boyle said it is not his responsibility to call and didn’t think it was unreasonable to address the issue.
“The public has the right to know,” Boyle said.
This is not the first time Koch had applied for a job in the valley while working for Kenai.
In 2010, Koch applied for the position of Matanuska-Susitna Borough manager, according to a Peninsula Clarion article.
The council meeting ended before Koch could respond to the council’s comments when Navarre motioned to adjourn and Gabriel seconded that motion.
Porter said Koch should have been given time to reply, and city clerk Sandra Modigh said once a motion to adjourn has been accepted, the council could not go back on record.
Koch returns from vacation April 22, one day before a scheduled budget work session.
Reach Dan Balmer at email@example.com