The Frankfort Plant Board has named Herbie Bannister as interim general manager after directors fired former manager Jim Smith and assistant manager Ron Thomas late Wednesday.
Smith and Thomas met with board Chairwoman Sheila Burton and Ralph Ludwig at 9:30 a.m. at board attorney James Liebman’s downtown office on Thursday.
The State Journal has learned both were formally notified of their terminations at the meeting. They left after 15 minutes with documents in hand and accompanied by Smith’s attorney, Kembra Taylor.
She declined comment on Smith’s behalf, and Thomas did not respond to a request for comment as he left Liebman’s office.
Neither Smith nor Thomas attended Wednesday’s board meeting, during which directors discussed personnel matters for about an hour behind closed doors and unanimously voted to fire Smith and Thomas, the assistant general manager of administration, in open session. Directors also discussed personnel behind closed doors for about two hours Monday.
After meeting with Smith and Thomas Thursday, Ludwig, the board’s secretary and treasurer, described the talks as “amicable.”
Burton said she wasn’t sure whether Smith would challenge the board’s decision in court since he’s hired an attorney.
“I’m sure Smith’s attorney will work with him on whatever if anything needs to be worked out,” Burton said Thursday.
Burton and Ludwig declined to say what led to the pair’s dismissal, but Burton later said Smith, hired July 15, 2011, was fired without cause.
Since he was fired without cause, his contract stipulates FPB pay six months of his more than $133,000 salary and cover his health insurance in that time.
While the dismissals won’t take effect until Feb. 29, Burton said Wednesday the two “will not be expected to perform any duties” after Thursday’s meeting.
Burton also announced Thursday the board’s decision to name Bannister interim general manager, a post he held after Warner Caines, FPB general manager before Smith, retired in September 2009.
Bannister, assistant general manager of operations, was reintroduced as interim manager at a staff meeting Thursday. He declined comment on his appointment through Glenn Waldrop, FPB’s public information coordinator.
For now, the search for Frankfort Plant Board’s third general manager in less than three years will take a back seat to restoring stability in the public utility.
“We need to take a little breather here and get ourselves reorganized,” Ludwig said.
Burton said she anticipates no other changes in FPB staff.