Ann Arbor City Council fires city administrator

Howard Lazarus has been in his position as city administrator since 2016. (City of Ann Arbor)

ANN ARBOR – Ann Arbor City Council approved the firing of city administrator Howard Lazarus in a 7-4 vote on Tuesday night.

The seven council members who voted to fire Lazarus without cause were Anne Bannister, Jack Eaton, Kathy Griswold, Jeff Hayner, Jane Lumm, Elizabeth Nelson and Ali Ramlawi.

Mayor Christopher Taylor, Zachary Ackerman, Julie Grand and Chip Smith voted against his removal.

Lazarus’ employment will be terminated on Feb. 29 and he will receive $223,600 in severance pay - equivalent to one year’s salary. He could also receive up to $50,000 for unused paid vacation time.

The resolution to fire Lazarus only appeared on council’s agenda on Tuesday morning and many residents are demanding transparency into the matter.

Several residents expressed their anger and frustration at the meeting, with some demanding a public hearing over the move. One resident, Kai Petainen, called the firing a political move, citing known tensions between Lazarus and some council members.

Last year, Lazarus applied to become city manager of Gainesville, Florida. At the time, he said he applied for the job following tensions with City Council, according to MLive.

In an open letter published on Tuesday night, council members Ackerman, Grand and Smith expressed their anger over the firing:

This backroom dealing violates every principle of transparency that we have worked so hard to foster over the years. Ironically, council members who campaigned on improved transparency and public input worked through secretive channels to remove the City Administrator without cause.

This absence of public discussion - about timing, circumstances, and cost - is irresponsible governance and cowardly leadership. Paying our top appointed official $275,000 to leave without public input is an egregious violation of public trust and a corruption of process.

For his part, Lazarus made remarks at the beginning of the meeting thanking city staff and expressing his love for public service. He ended his speech with: “And with that I wish you purpose and meaning, love and respect, good health, and above all, the joy of service to others.”

About the Author:

Meredith has worked for WDIV since August 2017 and was voted one of Washtenaw County's best journalists in 2019 by eCurrent's readers. She covers the community of Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in International Broadcast Journalism from City University London, UK.