E-mails paint portrait of Lombardo firing

BY CHRIS CLARK | MAY 08, 2009 7:30 AM

Related documents
(PDF format):
- Click here to read e-mails between former City Manager Michael Lombardo and acting City Manager Dale Helling.
- Click here to read e-mails between Lombardo and Mayor Regenia Bailey.
- Click here to read e-mails between Lombardo and David Kieft, the UI strategic initiatives coordinator for Sally Mason.
- Click here to read e-mails between Lombardo and Councilor Matt Hayek.
- Click here to read e-mails between Lombardo and Councilor Amy Correia.
- Click here to read e-mails between Bailey and Hayek.
- Click here to read e-mails between Lombardo and Hayek.

Two days prior to his firing, former City Manager Michael Lombardo wrote Councilor Amy Correia in an e-mail, “I am beginning to feel like there are some who would like me not to be the city manager any longer!?”

In response to a records request, City Clerk Marian Karr released on Thursday 295 pages of e-mails and correspondence among city officials regarding Lombardo. Officials have repeatedly declined to comment on the April 17 firing, saying the matter is a personnel issue.

An attempt to contact Lombardo at his home Thursday evening was unsuccessful. But the records suggest he could have seen his termination coming.

On the same day Lombardo told Correia he sensed something amiss — April 15 — Lombardo was trying to get in touch with Councilor Matt Hayek. Hayek responded later that day with an e-mail apologizing for missing Lombardo’s phone calls and suggested the conversation should wait until “Friday, when the full council gets together.”

At that meeting, the council voted unanimously to fire Lombardo.

Last November, officials also received an anonymous letter complaining about Lombardo’s conduct during a luncheon, documents show.

The writer told the council Lombardo made his or her luncheon experience “sour,” saying the former city manager showed “unbridled egotism.” He or she also warned city officials they “may not be aware of what goes on behind your backs.”

The person wrote it “seemed strange for [Lombardo] to exhibit publicly his disdain for group process and his supervisors,” adding he was “disloyal,” and “arrogant.”

“I feel sorry for those who must work closely with him,” the person wrote. “He is a smooth talker and a big smiler when he needs to be and is charming upon first impression, but there is a very dark side of him.”

But officials questioned the significance of the comments Thursday.

“I don’t give anonymous letters any credibility. I think anyone can write an anonymous letter,” Councilor Connie Champion said.

Mayor Regenia Bailey echoed that.

“I didn’t put a lot of weight in [the letter],” she said, and noted another person at the luncheon made similar comments about Lombardo. “But I certainly understood the circumstances in which somebody might write us anonymously.”

In another e-mail released Thursday between Hayek and Lombardo, the city councilor told Lombardo his quotation in the Iowa City Press-Citizen is “not what I would have used.” Hayek was referencing Lombardo’s criticism of the Johnson County Board of Supervisors for its hesitation to support the local-option sales tax’s four-year sunset.

“Language that strident has an impact — and not one that I think benefits the city long term,” Hayek wrote.

Lombardo responded to Hayek later that day defending his language, saying he didn’t feel his comments were strident.

In his reply, Lombardo accused two supervisors of pushing their agenda in a threatening way, warranting his harsh remarks.

E-mails in the 295-page packet also show Lombardo asked fellow city officials — such as interim City Manager Dale Helling — on at least two occasions to attend events he couldn’t make.

But Helling said that shuffling often happens in an office, and as Lombardo’s assistant, he expected to have to cover things.

“More than one person can do it,” Helling said. “It’s very common in an office.”

Helling, along with Champion and Councilor Mike Wright, declined to comment further on the packet of e-mails.

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