Daily Egyptian

Carbondale City Manager Kevin Baity fails expectations, put on paid leave

By Sam Beard, @SamBeard_DE

Leadership in Carbondale has once again been flipped on its head.

Mayor Mike Henry announced on Thursday that City Manager Kevin Baity will be stepping down from his post as Chief Executive Officer of the city.

Henry said the City Council and department heads evaluated Baity’s performance and determined he was not meeting their standards.

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“I really can’t address specifics of it, but what we were looking for was what areas of performance the previous council had been concerned about,” Henry said. “We looked at those areas and when we saw little or no improvement — or actually a little bit of a lower score in those areas — it led us to take action.”

The exact reasons Baity was asked to resign remains unclear.  

Henry said a perfect characterization of what led up to the scenario was that the council told Baity they were dissatisfied with his performance, and he did not object or appeal.

The city has been sharply criticized during Baity’s time in office for violating the Freedom of Information Act, in regards to the controversial death of SIUC student Molly Young.

Young died in 2012 at the apartment of her on-and-off boyfriend Richie Minton’s apartment from a gunshot wound to the head. Minton was a dispatcher for the Carbondale Police Department at the time of her death.

In a non-binding opinion, the Illinois Attorney General’s office said the Carbondale Police Department and the assistant city attorney cited illegitimate exemptions when denying records to Larry Young, Molly’s father.

“The Department has not articulated a legal rationale that justifies withholding personal information concerning Ms. Young from her father, including her death-scene images,” the letter reads. “Therefore, the Department violated FOIA by withholding information concerning Ms. Young from the requester…”

Before stepping down, Baity was responsible for enforcement of all laws and ordinances within the municipality, according to Carbondale’s website.

Baity was also criticized for ambiguously firing former Police Chief Jody O’Guinn, amidst growing controversies. O’Guinn has said he believes his sudden termination was a direct result of unexplained deaths of Young and Pravin Varughese, a student who was found dead in 2014 in a forested region on the 1400 block of E. Main St.

Baity said O’Guinn was fired for personal reasons and the unsolved deaths had nothing to do with his removal.

At the press conference, Henry was asked if the additional $15,000 dollars Baity decided to give Carbondale Police Chief Jeff Grubbs, so he can rent or purchase a home within the city limits to comply with residency requirements, had anything to do with letting him go. Henry said it did not.

However, reception of Baity has not been all negative.

His commitment to revitalizing the Strip has received praise from residents and business owners alike. He has expressed interest in expanding parking spaces and the implementation in new bike lanes.

He also approved the sale of a land parcel at 200 W. Elm St. for the construction of a 85-room Hilton Home2 Suites hotel.

Henry said it will likely take six months to find a permanent city manager and the city will consider internal and external individuals.

“I don’t think [the job posting] will be put up online, to be honest with you,” Henry said. “So tell your friends.”

“He is still the city manager, he’s just on a paid leave of absence as far as the legal standpoint goes,” Henry said. 

Until an interim city manager is found, Assistant City Manager for Economic Development Gary Williams will serve as acting city manager.

Williams could not be immediately reached for comment.

Henry said the ousting of Baity will be good for the city and shouldn’t hurt SIU in any way. 

“It shouldn’t have any effect the university — I can’t see why it would,” Henry said. “It will have more of an effect on us internally being without a leader for a couple of weeks. And then we are going to do a search for a permanent city manager.”

 Sam Beard can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @SamBeard_DE.

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