A department head in New Baltimore who was tasked with luring business to the city's historic downtown was let go Tuesday, according to multiple sources.
Judy Sproat, director of planning and economic development, was released from her position after multiple years with the city. New Baltimore Mayor Larry Smith notified city officials of her termination in a recent email. The reasoning behind the move was not immediately clear.
Smith nor Sproat returned phone calls Wednesday night, seeking comment.
Councilman Karl Rutledge said Smith sent city council members a message about Sproat being let go. The decision was not required to go before council for approval because she was an at-will employee. City Council met Monday night in a regularly scheduled meeting but there was no mention of Sproat.
Under the current city charter, drafted in the 1970s, there's few specifics about how at-will employees are terminated, according to city officials.
"There are some areas that are vague or totally absent from the charter" in regards to human resources and firing for cause, Rutledge said.
Some council members championed a new charter but that was voted down by a majority last summer. Amendments are expected, however, to be made in the near future.
Last summer, Sproat's job description and title came under scrutiny. During a council meeting, Councilman Ken Butler questioned in June why Smith wanted to change her job title from "director of planning and economic development" to "director of economic development and grant writing."
Smith told Patch then that he altered the title because she does not have a formal background in planning and had no formal job description until that point. He said the move did not change her annual salary of about $51,000 that was paid by three different city funds.
Sproat was brought on board by the former mayor more than four years ago.
"She was hired by Tom Goldenbogen," Rutledge, who was on the planning commission at the time, said. "Council never voted for or against her hiring."
In her role, she regularly met with potential business owners in hopes of ushering them to the historic downtown. She also sought grants for city improvements and tried to find creative solutions for projects, such as the old water tower.
The city's Downtown Development Authority board canceled its Wednesday night meeting in light of the news. Sproat had been in charge of compiling the board's agenda and worked closely with members, some of whom just learned she was no longer with the city.
Last March, another city employee, Assistant Parks and Recreation Director Carlos Aprea, was let go amid controversy.
Check back with Patch for updates on this story.
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