SOUTHWEST HARBOR — Two days before Michael Patterson was unanimously chosen by the Select Board to be Southwest Harbor’s next town manager, he was unanimously fired as city manager by the City Council in Florence, Colo.
After a search that lasted six months, Patterson, who was the city manager in Florence for 10 years, was chosen from a national pool of candidates. Officials in Florence have not released information about why Patterson was fired, according to an article in the Canon City Daily Record, a daily newspaper in Colorado.
When the Islander called the Florence City Hall to learn the cause of Patterson’s termination, Finance Director Lori Cobler said, “We have no comment at this time.”
Don Gerrish, a municipal consultant with the law firm Eaton Peabody, helped the town in its search for a town manager and said there was a background and criminal check conducted on Patterson.
“In the criminal check there were issues,” he said. “They were issues that were taken care of… Managers make mistakes like everybody else.”
Patterson was one of six candidates who applied for the position and is set to begin in Southwest Harbor’s Town Office on Oct. 4. He agreed to a three-year contract for the position after the town was able to increase the salary it was offering from $100,000 to $115,000.
“We have had negotiations with him for over two or three months,” said Gerrish.
Former Town Manager Justin VanDongen, who was hired in May 2018, also signed a three-year contract.
VanDongen was fired by the Select Board in January for what one board member cited as lack of confidence in his ability to do the job. They then hired Dana Reed as the interim town manager while searching for a permanent replacement. Reed was the town manager in Bar Harbor for 28 years and did a three-year stint in Tremont that ended in 2017.
According to a press release from the town, Patterson is familiar with Southwest Harbor because he visited several times when his daughter’s family was stationed at the Coast Guard base.
Patterson has a master’s degree in public administration from Eastern Washington University and a bachelor’s degree from Gonzaga University. He was also the city manager in Redmond, Ore., for four years. That job ended in December of 2008 when he resigned after being arrested that November and later charged with fourth-degree assault, according to an article in The Bulletin, a newspaper based in Bend, Ore. Patterson pled guilty to the charges and was part of a domestic violence deferred sentencing program, but he did not complete it. He was then sentenced to three years of probation, which, if completed, would reduce his charge to a misdemeanor. It is not clear whether that happened.