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Bethel city council votes unanimously to fire city manager over violation of municipal code

Nathaniel Herz
Spring in the western Alaska community of Bethel on May 23, 2013. The main port along the Kuskokwim river, Bethel is an administrative hub for 56 villages in the region. The Bethel City Council voted unanimously Monday to fire city manager Lee Foley. Loren Holmes photo

Bethel’s city council voted unanimously Monday to fire city manager Lee Foley, according to Mayor Joe Klejka.

Foley last week admitted he had violated city procurement and nepotism rules, though he maintained his actions — including authorizing the hiring of his son, and giving work to a construction company and Bethel’s former finance director without a competitive bidding process — had been in the city’s best interests.

Council members commissioned an investigation by an Anchorage attorney that documented other violations, Klejka said. Few details have been released publicly.

The council fired Foley simply “because he wasn’t following Bethel municipal code,” Klejka said.

“That was pretty much it,” he said. “You have to have someone who follows the code leading the city.”

Foley, who had been suspended with pay since late April, did not immediately return a phone message Monday afternoon. He said last week he did not deserve to be fired.

Bethel will pay Foley three months of severance, Klejka said. Foley earns roughly $104,000 annually, he said last week.

Bethel’s city manager oversees a budget of some $11.5 million, along with 120 employees, in the Southwest hub community of 6,300, Foley said in an interview last week. Port Director Pete Williams has held the job on an interim basis since Foley was suspended last month.

Klejka said Bethel’s city council will first look for a new interim city manager, then advertise for Foley’s permanent replacement. He expects the process to take at least six weeks.

In the meantime, Klejka said he’s looking forward to the city moving on from what he called a “distraction.”

The decision, he added, “gives us some closure, so we can move forward.”

Reach Nathaniel Herz at nherz@adn.com or 257-4311.