By Jessica Mathews & Jon King /

The Howell City Council is moving on following the abrupt resignation of its city manager amid staff turmoil and an acknowledgment of "unpleasantries", but no details on just what led to the departure of Paul DeBuff.

DeBuff submitted his resignation last Thursday, saying he appreciated the opportunity and wished the “City, the Council, and staff the very best.” He served in the role for less than a year. Council met virtually Monday night and approved a motion to accept the resignation effective immediately and amend DeBuff’s employment agreement to provide two months’ severance of salary and benefits paid through July 6th, with vacation benefits to be paid out in lump sum per contract. Council approved a separate motion to appoint DPS Director Erv Suida as city manager.

Mayor Nick Proctor commented that it’s been a difficult couple of weeks managing a situation with very few viable options. He thanked staff members for being willing to provide candid input but also thanked DeBuff, who he said that after a few hours of difficult and uncomfortable discussion remained composed in explaining his perspective of the issues and walking through the few options available moving forward. Proctor further thanked Council for allowing him adequate flexibility in managing a way forward under difficult time constraints, saying the motion was the best outcome for a very troubling situation.

Proctor said he remains deeply troubled and unsettled by events over the last ten days and it saddened him to know it could have been avoided if Council was made aware of issues long ago to either correct issues or provide mentoring before critical mass made things irreconcilable. He said there were few viable options and wished DeBuff the best in his future endeavors – adding he didn’t view it as a negative but missteps in managing change.

One resident asked for more information about why DeBuff resigned. Proctor responded to say that the changes DeBuff was trying to implement weren’t being effectively staffed out and it became untenable but added he would be happy to speak with her independently.

Councilman Randy Greene commended Proctor for his handling of the situation. He said Proctor’s actions prove how much Council and the City will miss his leadership next year and thanked him for all of the communication and how he handled a really tough situation – further stressing that staff is valued enormously. Proctor is not running for re-election.

Council discussed steps moving forward in hiring a new manager and had shared concerns about another search. Councilman Greene said it was with the utmost respect that he made the motion to appoint Suida as the new manager, pending the outcome of successful contract discussions. Suida had served as the interim manager for a year after longtime manager Shea Charles resigned and DeBuff was hired. Proctor commented that Suida did a fantastic job during a year of social upheaval and has his full confidence.

The motion was approved unanimously and Suida commented that he appreciates it and wishes it was under different circumstances but he’ll be glad to serve the community in this capacity and hopefully come to some terms – adding he appreciates the vote of confidence. A contract will be brought back to Council for consideration.

Finally, at the end of the meeting, Proctor brought forward new business that he said hopes will preclude a future mayor and council from being blind-sided and put in a situation of being unaware of dissatisfaction. He asked for Council’s support to “hopefully prevent a recurrence of the recent unpleasantries." However, the nature of those "unpleasantries" remains unreported as city officials have been tight-lipped about the specific details on what led to DeBuff's surprise departure.

Council unanimously approved a motion to direct Suida, the attorney and HR specialist to undertake a review of any whistleblower policies on the books and propose changes that would clearly articulate how to report issues of concern. They’ll report back to Council with recommendations.