The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

February 25, 2014

Former Joplin city manager tabbed for Texas job

JOPLIN, Mo. — Joplin’s former city manager, Mark Rohr, was hired Tuesday night as the city manager for League City, Texas.

The action came three weeks to the day after Rohr was fired by the Joplin City Council.

The council in League City voted 8-0 after a closed session that lasted about 30 minutes to hire Rohr. The city’s staff was instructed to continue negotiations with Rohr on the terms of employment and to submit a contract to the council at a future meeting.

The meeting was streamed live over the Internet at 6 p.m. on the city of League City’s website, www.leaguecity.com.

Rohr could not be reached for comment.

League City Councilman Todd Kinsey had told the Globe on Tuesday afternoon that he expected the council to vote to hire Rohr.

Rohr had been the Joplin city manager for nine years until he was fired by a split Joplin City Council on Feb. 4.

Asked why Rohr was considered the pick among four candidates the League City council invited there for interviews starting on Friday, Kinsey said: “He’s a dynamic change agent is how I perceive Mark, and I think that’s what our city needs right now.

“In a decade we’ve gone from 35,000 to 90,000 in population, so we’re experiencing explosive growth,” and with that came explosive debt under previous managers, Kinsey said.

League City has had three city managers since 2011.

Kinsey said his city needs the kind of experience that Rohr brings.

“I think Mark’s the kind of guy, especially with the experiences of the horrible disaster you went through (the May 2011 tornado) — to go through that and come out of that with the limited debt you have. Our debt has just exploded over the last few city managers,” Kinsey said.

The other finalists for the job were Jack Hamlett, former city manager of Rosenberg, Texas; Michael Morrison, who is interim city manager at Irving, Texas; and Mark Yearwood, who has been assistant city manager of Lubbock, Texas, for 21 years.

Asked for comment Tuesday night, Joplin’s mayor, Melodee Colbert-Kean, said, “I wish him well in his new endeavor. I wish him well.” She was among those who voted to fire Rohr.

Another in that camp, Mayor Pro Tem Bill Scearce, did not return a message seeking comment.

Scearce last week said he was the one who asked City Attorney Brian Head to prepare a resolution calling for Rohr’s termination so that Scearce would have it “in my pocket” after a special investigator gave a report on a City Council-ordered probe of Scearce and Councilman Mike Woolston. Some council members have said that investigation was not intended to take in city or council employees such as Rohr.

“Scearce approached me days prior (to the report meeting) and told me he wanted a resolution written,” Head told the Globe last week. “I told him I didn’t think that was a good idea.”

Head said Scearce then told him that he (Scearce) intended to make a motion to appoint Head as interim city manager.

“At that point, I pushed back” from representing the council and asked the city’s outside counsel, Karl Blanchard, to take over the role of council legal adviser, Head said.

Scearce did make that motion but it failed 5-4, and the assistant city manager, Sam Anselm, was appointed as interim manager.

Councilman Benjamin Rosenberg introduced the Rohr resolution for termination at the council meeting that night, and it passed by a 5-4 vote.

Rosenberg, asked Tuesday if he knew Rohr had applied in League City and if that had figured into his decision to call for Rohr’s termination, said: “No. I did not. Nor would it have. I can tell you right now the closed meeting of the investigator is what made my decision. I wish him well.”

Kinsey, asked if League City council members had any concerns about the circumstances surrounding Rohr’s termination in Joplin, said: “Yes and no. I know one of the players. I know the developer, David Wallace, and I know him to be a man of character, so I don’t think there’s anything there” in terms of wrongdoing between Rohr and Wallace Bajjali Development Partners, the company hired to guide Joplin’s tornado redevelopment. Kinsey characterized the firing of Rohr as “politics.”

League City is 40 miles from Sugar Land, Texas, where Wallace Bajjali is based.

Kinsey said Wallace, chief executive officer of Wallace Bajjali, recommended Rohr.

“I think the true net beneficiary will be the citizens of League City, if in fact Mark is offered the job and if in fact he accepts it,” Wallace said by telephone Tuesday.

Experience in economic development, downtown redevelopment, tornado rebuilding, and disaster preparedness and recovery “is extremely valuable to a city manager,” Wallace said. “Mark exhibits all those traits.”

Rohr’s annual base salary in Joplin was $156,909. With longevity pay added, his monthly pay was $13,206, according to the city’s public information officer, Lynn Onstot.

Rohr is to be paid that amount as severance for up to six months or until he is employed elsewhere.

Woolston, who was mayor at the time of the 2011 tornado, said he developed a close working relationship with Rohr. He said he is hopeful that Rohr will be able to look back on his leadership in Joplin with pride.

“I’m sad to see him go, particularly under these circumstances, because I felt he could have brought a lot of value to the recovery,” Woolston said.

He said he hopes the League City job will be a step forward for Rohr.

Heavily recruited

A SEARCH FIRM, Strategic Government Resources of Keller, Texas, was hired to identify candidates for the League City job. A company representative said Mark Rohr was heavily recruited recently to apply.

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