It's official: Jared Miller out as Amarillo city manager

Will receive over $767,000 severance with separation agreement

During a special meeting Wednesday afternoon, the Amarillo City Council voted 5-0 to accept a separation agreement with city manager Jared Miller. 

“Mr. Miller and I had a conversation when I first got elected, and we both knew what we had come through for the past two years. 

"We had a very genuine conversation about if there is going to be change, let’s not do it the wrong way where we mistreat each other, and then let’s do it sooner rather than later," Amarillo mayor Cole Stanley said.

Stanley noted all of the current city council members did their own evaluations of Miller before making a decision on the separation agreement.

“It does not take two years to evaluate a position.

"When you see what you have and know where you are, it’s just better for all parties involved to go ahead and break ties and move forward. And that was actually at the request of Mr. Miller, and I was glad to honor that for him," Stanley said.

Stanley stressed the separation agreement “is not something that came out of nowhere; we have had good discussions for all parties involved."

“What we have tried to do is have a true willingness to look for what is the best outcome for the situation, and truly are we doing what we feel we have been elected to do. 

"What you see out there is change. This is what change looks like," Stanley said.

Miller, who was present during the special meeting, said he was not surprised by the city council's decision.

“This is part of city management, so if you are a city manager and you are surprised when this ever happens, you just have not been around long enough.

“At the end of the day, this is very much a fit job. You cannot look at any one city manager across the state and say they are the best city manager and I wish I had them," Miller said.

Place 3 councilmember Tom Scherlen stressed the decision to part ways with Miller was not a "knee-jerk reaction."

"We’ve been in office about three, three-and-a-half months now, and we just needed the separation to go the direction that the city council wanted to go and we’re working for the citizens of Amarillo.

“This is a great decision because we can now get someone in here that wants to go in the direction that we are wanting to go. That is the reason we are doing what we had to do. 

"I am not saying anything against Jared, but we just have a different way of doing business that has been done before,” Scherlen said.

Stanley noted that the current city council felt a different management style was needed in the city manager position.

“For 12 months, we knew that we had a short staffing issue in those CDL drivers, and we continued to fall further and further behind. That’s an example of previous council, feeling like that management style was okay and current council, knowing that that’s not the right type of management style.

 “What you’re seeing with this council is very hands-on. We are going to be around, we’re going to be in the budget, and we want to work with you and that’s going to require a hands-on city manager that, you know, can’t take his hands off and let it go months and months on end. 

"And then what we saw was the result was, ‘We’ll just reduce service.’ That’s not an answer that we can accept," Stanley said.

Miller said he felt the separation agreement was handled with respect and professionalism from both sides.

“Today’s meeting is part of the process, and people having an opportunity to say what they think is also part of the process.

“The council has been very professional and respectful throughout the process. I have not had time to process, but this is how it should go if this is going to happen. 

"When cities have a significant change in leadership, sometimes this happens.

“I love this community, I love this team, and I think council’s in the same place.

“So we wanted to make sure that whatever we did if we’re going to do this, let’s do it in a way that maintains the community’s ability to have confidence in the organization and in council, and maintains the organization’s ability to continue serving the citizens, and to continue being an effective tool to accomplish a whole lot of goals that are very challenging, all of them, Miller said.

Miller had served as the city's manager since 2017. He took over as the city manager after a two-year search process following the resignation of current Lubbock city manager Jarret Atkinson.

“I am proud of the team that serves the city of Amarillo and any that we built or any project that we have done. Sometimes, we do not get it perfect, but more often than not, the staff is doing a darn good job.

“I am glad for the time I have spent here with the organization; I still am going to be a resident of Amarillo. So, I still have a vested interest in how the organization does and hopefully, we are leaving it better than we found it.”

With the separation agreement now formally approved by the city council, the total amount owed to  Miller per his contract and the executed separation agreement is approximately $767,260.75.

That amount includes:

• A lump sum severance payment of $633,726.16 paid from the water and sewer fund;

• A lump sum payment in lieu of a 90-day notice period of $97,134.59 paid from the general fund;

• Reimbursement for all medical and dental premiums paid by the Miller associated with continuation coverage for him and his dependents under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) for 18 months of COBRA coverage after the date of separation in the estimated amount of $32,000 paid from the general fund; and

• Reimbursement for the annual life insurance premium for Miller’s $3 million 20-year guaranteed level term life policy in 2023 and 2024 in the estimated amount of $4,400 paid from the general fund.

Also outlined in Miller's contract, there are benefits associated with the severance payout aside from the base salary. These benefits include items such as car allowance, communications allowance, 457 plan funding, etc. 

“We had an opportunity to we could have rejected that and it would have ended in litigation. And that is not what’s best for the city," Stanley said.

The money to pay Miller's severance will come out of the enterprise fund that comes from water and sewer. 

Stanley said the process to hire Miller's replacement could take 6 months to 1 year.

"We're going to get this one right.

"I can tell you that I've been counting the cost. And if I do nothing, I'm getting it wrong. 

"And so you have to hear me say that I'm not willing to get this one wrong," Stanley said.

“It’s not the most attractive thing to step into when you have a full council that can be ousted in one two-year term and we face that here in a little more than a year-and-a-half, and so this is a unique position for anybody to try to want to come take on.

“The pay scale is very high. So we have a large budget so that’s going to attract good applicants, but we have had turnover," Stanley said.

Deputy city manager Andrew Freeman will serve as the interim city manager for the immediate future.

“We want him to have everything that he needs to lead this team and we want him to know that he has our full confidence and backing and support.

“And at the same time, we’re also going to have a discussion that allows for us to look and see, is there anything else that would be better for the city and for this organization," Stanley said.

Dan Butcher

Dan Butcher (aka HP Pundit) is not a Democrat or Republican. He is a free thinking independent bringing you news and commentary with a dose of much needed common sense.

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