Reaction, but few updates in Harrington

HARRINGTON — Harrington City Council convened Monday night in executive session to discuss a lawsuit filed by a former city employee.

The meeting comes six days after council voted to suspend City Manager Don Williams while an investigation into alleged criminal and civil misconduct takes place. Mayor Anthony Moyer also has stepped away from his duties due to similar allegations.

Ex-Harrington planner Jeremy Rothwell, who worked for the city from December 2016 through June of this year, dropped a bombshell two weeks ago when he accused the mayor and manager of various wrongdoings, including use of office for personal gain and bullying employees.

While the details of the investigation, such as what law enforcement agency will conduct it and how long it may take, have not been shared publicly, Police Chief Norman Barlow said Monday night he expects that information to be announced soon.

Chief Barlow is serving as acting city manager while Mr. Williams is on paid administrative leave.

City Council took no action after the executive session, which lasted about 45 minutes. Though council members did not explicitly refer to Mr. Rothwell, the agenda referenced “Potential Litigation – Employee Termination,” which it said was “added for time sensitivity.”

Mr. Rothwell’s attorney sent a demand letter to city officials in July, although it was not shared with council members, according to Mr. Rothwell.

“In the event the City is unprepared to immediately reinstate my client he is willing to accept a severance payment equivalent to eighteen months salary, conversion of his termination to a resignation, and reimbursement of his legal costs and fees. This amount is far less than what a jury will award if this matter is forced to litigation,” the letter states.

“If the parties are unable to resolve this matter promptly, my client will be compelled to file a public complaint and engage in long protracted litigation, including discovery, subject matter expert testimonies, which will undoubtedly confirm, inter alia, the aforestated allegations.”

About 30 members of the public attended Monday night’s packed council meeting, with several speaking in defense of Mr. Williams and Mr. Moyer, including their wives.

Both Eve Moyer and Judy Williams urged City Council to conduct a speedy investigation to clear their husbands’ names as soon as possible and allow the Harrington community to move past this situation.

“He takes phone calls all hours, including weekends and holidays, to keep the city running smoothly,” Ms. Moyer said of Mr. Williams.

Mr. Rothwell has claimed Mr. Williams regularly worked less than 40 hours a week yet still received his full salary, which would constitute fraud.

But Ms. Williams, who was briefly overcome by emotion while speaking, described her husband as a relentless worker who cares about Harrington.

“He probably does 120 hours a week,” she said.

One of the other city residents to speak criticized Mr. Rothwell, questioning why he did not report the allegations sooner. His claims are “fake news,” said Barbara Bullock, referring to the State News specifically.

Staff writer Matt Bittle can be reached at 741-8250 or mbittle@newszap.com. Follow @MatthewCBittle on Twitter.

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