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Laura Curliss to leave Village Manager position

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Laura Curliss will leave her position as Village manager. (News file photo)

Laura Curliss will leave her position as Village manager. (News file photo)

At Village Council’s Aug. 19 meeting, Council unanimously approved a resolution that allows the Village and Village Manager Laura Curliss to enter into a settlement agreement that releases Curliss from her contract with the Village. Curliss will continue in her job as Village manager until Sept. 28, according to the agreement.

The announcement was made at the end of Council’s regular meeting, following an executive session for the purpose of dismissal, discipline or demotion of an employee. Curliss, who was present for the bulk of the meeting, was not present at the announcement of the settlement agreement.

“While the Village Council has decided to proceed in a different direction, I would like to acknowledge the work done by Laura in her duties as the Yellow Springs Village Manager,” Council President Judith Hempfling said in a prepared statement, as she announced the agreement. “She brought energy and expertise to the work of government administration and I thank her for her efforts on behalf of the Village of Yellow Springs.”

Council person Karen Wintrow thanked Curliss for tackling some long-delayed projects.

“Laura took on projects that had been languishing,” Wintrow said. “She did things that needed to be done.”

Other Council members did not speak on the agreement, nor did citizens, who had mainly left the meeting following an earlier discussion regarding the Center for Business and Education.

According to the settlement agreement, Curliss’ employment will end due to her decison to offer her resignation, and Council’s decision to accept it. Also, the agreement states that Curliss waives her right to a hearing “or any other rights she might have relating to the end of her employment relationship” with the Village.

Curliss will receive $50,000 as part of the agreement, in the following payments: $10,900 to her Deferred Comp Plan; $1,500 to her HSA account and $30,100 as a lump sum. She will also receive unpaid accrued benefit time (vacation) in addition to the lump sum. According to the agreement, the amount equals six months severance pay and $8,000 as “consideration for the waiver and release” in the agreement. The agreement also states that both the Village and Curliss will keep terms of the agreement confidential to the extent permitted by law, and both parties agree “not to make any disparaging or derogatory comments” about the other. Council in the agreement agrees to sign a reference letter for Curliss.

Curliss on Tuesday said she was not making any statements. Hempfling also declined to comment.

Council hired Curliss as permanent manager in June 2012, after she served as interim manager for six months previously following the resignation of Mark Cundiff. Her hiring was a surprise to many villagers, as Council had previously announced it would conduct a public search for the new manager, then decided not to do so once Curliss came on board, without publicly announcing the change of plans.

In her tenure, Curliss was known as a hard and competent worker. She took on an ambitious array of projects, and made progress especially with infrastructure efforts, including the Center for Business and Education (CBE), road repair and the Northern Gateway (later dropped when funding was cut). Unlike her predecessors, she performed her job without the assistance of a planning or economic development specialist.

However, as both interim and permanent manager, Curliss found herself in the midst of several local controversies. In March of 2012, a protest was lodged against the annual Women’s Voices art exhibit due to the discomfort of a Village employee, and while no artwork was removed from the show, local artists complained of communication difficulties with Curliss. A lack of communication was also cited by critics after Curliss initiated an aggressive plan to change the downtown streetscape last summer, including the removal of aging street trees. That initiative sparked local protest, and Council ultimately approved a less ambitious plan for the streetscape renovation.

Local upset also followed a proposal to contract out local police dispatch to Xenia, which Curliss pushed for with Council. That proposal was later dropped. And faulty communicaton from Curliss was cited by some as contributing to villagers’ distress over an overuse of herbicides at the Gaunt Park pool earlier in the summer.

An attorney, Curliss came to the Yellow Springs after serving for six years as assistant to the mayor of Wilmington. She received a masters in divinity from Yale University before getting her law degree from the University of Notre Dame and later worked as assistant prosecuting attorney in South Bend, Ind. After moving back to Clinton County, where she was raised, she worked in the Clinton County prosecutor’s office before becoming assistant to the mayor.

While Curliss, after being hired as manager, stated that she and her family ­— her husband, Dr. Patrick Gentile and son ­— would move to Yellow Springs, they had not yet found a house and are still living in Wilmington.

On Tuesday, Hempfling stated that at its next meeting Council would begin discussion on its next step in seeking an interim manager.

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