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Fired City Manager Seeks Old Job

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — Fired former city manager Jim Palenick, who still has a lawsuit against the city before the state Supreme Court, is seeking to get his old job back.

Palenick is one of 40 applicants for the city manager’s position that Rio Rancho is looking to fill after what recent city manager James Jimenez called his “involuntary” retirement. Jimenez left in July with a $144,000 severance package.

Reached by phone on Friday, Palenick declined to comment on why he was interested in returning to Rio Rancho.

Palenick was the city’s top administrator from 2003 to December 2006, when he was fired by the City Council. His firing propelled Rio Rancho into the headlines when the Attorney General’s Office determined that private conversations between then-Mayor Kevin Jackson and several city councilors before his firing violated the state’s Open Meetings Act.

The act, among other things, prohibits a quorum of elected officials from conducting public business in private.

Palenick sued the city in early 2008, claiming the attorney general’s opinion meant he was illegally fired and due more than $120,000 in back pay. The city has consistently maintained it doesn’t owe Palenick more money because he demanded and received a $110,000 severance package, left town and accepted another job.

Although a state District Court judge ruled against Palenick, he received a favorable ruling from the state Court of Appeals.

The city then took the issue to the state Supreme Court, which held a hearing in September but has yet to issue a ruling.

After his firing in 2006, Palenick told the Journal he “loved Rio Rancho” and called it his “adopted home.”

The city of Gastonia, N.C., hired Palenick as its manager in August 2007 but councilors there voted to fire him from that job in December. He is now interim town manager in Dallas, N.C. The town has a population of 4,509, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Rio Rancho city councilors recently decided to interview city manager candidates as a committee of the whole rather than create a subcommittee of councilors for that purpose.

As of Friday, no candidates had been selected for interview, Deputy City Clerk Yolanda Lucero said.
— This article appeared on page 20 of the Albuquerque Journal