BERLIN – Berlin officials fired Town Administrator Laura Allen Monday morning.
Mayor Gee Williams confirmed Monday that officials unanimously agreed to terminate Allen last week and that she was informed at 8 a.m. Monday morning.
“This action was based on the best interests of the Town of Berlin and the property owners,” he said. “All of us are committed to doing what is necessary. What was necessary was due to multiple issues.”
When contacted for comment, Allen simply said she worked for the elected officials.
“As town administrator, I served at the will of the mayor and council,” she said. “It’s their right to make changes as they see fit.”
Williams confirmed that one of the issues he referred to was the chemical spill at Heron Park.
“All I can say is anyone who’s been following this can see it’s put the town in a very unfortunate position of financial liability that we obviously think could have been avoided,” he said.
Councilman Thom Gulyas made similar comments and stressed that the elected officials had the town’s best interests at heart.
“I do feel the town has been betrayed,” he said.
When asked how so, Gulyas said he couldn’t be specific and that the Environmental Protection Agency and the Maryland Department of the Environment were still investigating,
“Let them do their jobs first,” he said.
The environmental investigation comes in the wake of the chemical spill identified in June at Heron Park. As of last week, cleanup costs had risen to more than $244,000.
Councilman Zack Tyndall declined to comment on Allen’s departure and said questions regarding the specifics of her termination should be directed to the mayor.
“However, as someone that has been terminated from a position before and the unfortunate recipient of the negative public backlash after such termination, I believe that anyone in a public position, such as our Town Administrator, does not deserve to be publicly humiliated,” Tyndall said. “Despite whatever differences the mayor and council may have had with the Town Administrator, I believe Laura is a very kind and knowledgeable public servant. I wish her the best in all future endeavors.”
Williams said that for the immediate future, he and Managing Director Jeff Fleetwood would split the town administrator’s duties. The town will, however, move forward with filling the position.
“The current situation is temporary but I don’t expect it to be resolved overnight,” Williams said.
Williams said there was a severance requirement in Allen’s contract, which was renewed in November of 2016, and that it would be fulfilled. When asked if there had been talk of resignation before Allen’s termination, Williams said “there was no discussion of resignation.”
Williams said the town would continue to move forward.
“This is a very unfortunate outcome but we remain optimistic about the town’s immediate and long-term future,” he said. “This will not discourage us from maximizing the town’s potential.”
Allen was hired in 2013 with 18 years of experience working in the public sector. Prior to coming to Berlin, she spent five years as city manager in Colma, Calif.