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John Curp approved as interim city manager along with severance for Paula Boggs Muething

John Curp
Becca Costello
/
WVXU
John Curp will serve as Cincinnati's Interim City Manager while Mayor Aftab Pureval launches a nationwide search for a permanent candidate.

Former Cincinnati City Solicitor John Curp will serve as the city's top administrator for the next few months. Council unanimously approved a contract Wednesday for Curp to serve as Interim City Manager once Paula Boggs Muething officially resigns in two weeks.

Mayor Aftab Pureval is planning a nationwide search for a permanent replacement, with a request for proposals going out soon to select a third-party search firm.

Pureval says Curp is the ideal person for the job.

"This is a decision that is in front of us to ensure that we have strong leadership that has some time to transition," Pureval said. "[Curp] was chosen partly because he is a known quantity; he's got experience in City Hall, he's got the previous relationships, he has been vetted."

Curp's position is effective Jan. 19. He says he wasn't planning to apply for the permanent job until Pureval asked him to.

"I view this as the time in which I'm preparing this government for the next leader, whether it's me or someone else," he said. "I want to be sure we set the tone and the direction for this administration in a way that if it's not me, someone can step right in and it be a seamless transition."

Curp's salary will be about $10,000 biweekly, equal to about $265,000 a year (about the same as Boggs Muething's current salary). The contract includes a provision that if/when a new city manager is chosen, they will offer Curp a senior management level position with the city that pays at least 75% of his salary as interim city manager.

If Curp is terminated while serving as interim city manager, or if he doesn't accept the offer of another senior management position, he'll get six months salary as severance.

If the new city manager chooses not to appoint Curp to a senior management job, or if Curp accepts a new job and is terminated from that position (other than for cause), the city will pay him a lump sum of the remaining salary through July 30, 2024. City Solicitor Andrew Garth estimates that payment would be about $400,000, depending on when Curp left city employment.

Curp says he started the contract negotiations with the idea that he didn't want anymore more than previous contracts for similar positions.

"I'm giving up a lucrative law practice to step back into government," Curp told council. "And giving that up, from my personal perspective, required that there be a commitment to me to provide me some time to accommodate a career if things went different ways."

The details of the contract were a cause of concern for Council Member Liz Keating, the only Republican on council.

"We're voting on the CEO of nearly a billion-and-a-half-dollar enterprise that is the city of Cincinnati," Keating said during discussion in committee Wednesday morning. "And we're making that decision today on something that we got information on less than 48 hours ago."

Keating asked for a one or two week delay on the vote to give council members time for "due diligence" research. Council Member Mark Jeffreys says council has to be pragmatic.

"The current city manager leaves in two weeks from today," he said. "So we delay a week or we delay two weeks? In effect, there's no transition."

Keating abstained from the committee vote, but voted in favor of the ordinance at the full council meeting about an hour later, saying she was able to speak with a few more of Curp's references and review his personnel file. Ultimately, though, Keating says her vote came down to the fact that Boggs Muething's severance package and Curp's contract were combined in one ordinance.

"I do still have some concerns about the package for Mr. Curp," she said. "But ultimately, I wanted to make sure that we were treating our city manager fairly as she departs after remarkable leadership here."

Council had to approve the severance package for Boggs Muething because it differed from the agreement in her original contract. When she took the full-time job in 2020, she was promised a lump sum payment of six months' salary; the package approved this week gives her eight and a half month's salary, a lump sum payment of about $188,000.

She'll also receive:

  • Payment of all unused sick and vacation time (estimated 410 hours of vacation and 340 hours of sick leave)
  • Continuation of health insurance for up to nine months, or until she secures alternative employment with health benefits
  • Deferred compensation through June 30, 2022 (about $4,000)
  • $2,500 reimbursement for attorney's fees to negotiate the severance
  • Her city-issued Surface Pro laptop (after it is cleared of all city information and reset to factory settings)

Pureval and council members lauded Boggs Muething for her job as city manager during the pandemic.
Curp says he's already met with Boggs Muething to start the transition, and is meeting with other administrative staff over the next two weeks.

Becca Costello grew up in Williamsburg and Batavia (in Clermont County) listening to WVXU. Before joining the WVXU newsroom, she worked in public radio & TV journalism in Bloomington, Indiana and Lincoln, Nebraska. Becca has earned numerous awards for her reporting, including from local chapters of the Associated Press and Society of Professional Journalists, and contributed to regional and national Murrow Award winners. Becca has a master's degree in journalism from Indiana University and a bachelor's degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Becca's dog Cincy (named for the city they once again call home) is even more anxious than she is.