For the second time in less than three years, the Frankfort Plant Board will look for a new general manager after directors terminated Jim Smith’s contract by unanimous vote late Wednesday.
The board also voted unanimously to fire Assistant General Manager Ron Thomas, whom Smith hired, but declined to say why both men were ousted at 10 p.m. after an hour behind closed doors at attorney James Liebman’s office.
The meeting, held late due to scheduling conflicts, followed a two-hour closed-door personnel session at Liebman’s office Monday.
“Effective Feb. 29, 2012, Jim Smith will no longer be employed as general manager of the Frankfort Plant Board,” board chairwoman Sheila Burton said in a statement after the meeting. “In addition, effective Feb. 29, 2012, Ron Thomas will no longer be employed as assistant general manager of the Frankfort Plant Board.”
Neither attended Wednesday’s meeting, and both were unaware of their terminations Wednesday night, Burton said.
They won’t be fired until Feb. 29 to maintain health insurance through the end of the month, she said.
“We felt like terminating them tomorrow would automatically shut down Ron’s health insurance,” Burton said. “However, they will not be expected to perform any duties upon receiving notification tomorrow.”
Both will be informed “as soon as reasonably possible” today, she said. A meeting with both was planned for 9:30 a.m. today.
Smith and Thomas declined to comment on the board’s decision.
Burton declined to say whether Smith was fired with or without cause. According to his contract, he would be paid six months of his more than $133,000 salary if fired without cause.
Thomas, who handled the utility’s cable, telecom and administrative offices, is an at-will employee. He earned more than $108,000 in salary, FPB personnel records show.
No interim general manager has been named, Burton said. Herbie Bannister, assistant general manager of operations, served as interim general manager when Caines left the plant board.
It’s unclear what led to Smith’s and Thomas’ ouster.
“On advice of our attorney, at this point we have no further comment,” Burton said.
However, The State Journal knew of growing tension between the board and Smith at the time of his evaluation in September.
The board, which at the time included Ann Wingrove and Bennie Maffett and not Pat Lynch and Arthur McKee, gave Smith mostly average scores when evaluating his first year.
The evaluation noted concerns with miscommunications that “created deeper divisions among the Board, senior management and staff” as well as Smith’s understanding of the expectation that FPB operates with “the stringent standards of transparency and accountability required of other public entities in Kentucky.”
The board, at the time, also noted goals weren’t mutually established between Smith and directors.
In response to the evaluation, Smith had a listing of major accomplishments and initiatives during his first year as general manager included in the document.
Two memos detailing Smith’s goals and initiatives, dated Aug. 15 and Jan. 24, 2011, were also included.
Smith was hired July 15, 2010, out of College Park Power near Atlanta, where he was director for about eight years.
He succeeded Warner Caines, who retired Sept. 30, 2009, and was FPB’s general manager for 24 years. Caines said at the time that he left after directors said they lost confidence in him.