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Planner assumes helm in Newburgh

June 12th, 2013

James Slaughter, the most recent hire by controversial City Manager Rick Herbek, became Herbek’s temporary successor last Wednesday on a unanimous vote by the City Council.

Slaughter, 59, will serve as interim city manager while the council begins a national search for a successor to Herbek. Slaughter, a highly regarded expert in industrial and waterfront development, joined the staff at the end of April. Asked if he’ll seek the permanent job, Slaughter deferred, saying his first thoughts are on his new assignment.

He will be paid $120,000 a year as interim city manager, plus benefits. Herbek was paid $150,000 without benefits.

Herbek resigned May 30 under the pressure of accusations that he had developed a relationship with an accused prostitute with drug problems. Herbek and the woman had been stopped by Newburgh Police this past October as they drove down a darkened city street in Herbek’s car.

Herbek first denied a relationship although initially saying he planned to resign at that time. He quickly changed his mind and said he would fight for his job because the people of Newburgh “need me.”

In the end the pressure became too great and after city gadfly Omari Shakur claimed he could supply tapes and videos it became evident it would be impossible for Herbek to weather the storm.

Mayor Judy Kennedy said that the City Council won’t hire a search firm as they had when Jean-Ann McGrane was fired in 2009, but they will use some of the contacts and the techniques of that search.

Police Chief Michael Ferrara expressed relief upon being relieved of his duties as acting city manager. He said he will always be a police officer and will retire as police chief.

“We are very grateful to Chief Ferrara for stepping up to the plate on short notice following the resignation of the previous city manager,” Mayor Kennedy said. “His willingness to serve in this capacity whenever called upon is much appreciated, and he has always served the city well.

“However, his responsibilities as police chief would make it extremely difficult to fulfill the duties of both positions for an extended period of time while we search for a permanent city manager.”

Slaughter has more than 20 years experience in municipal and private sector work, specializing in urban, economic and riverfront development. He becomes the first city manager of color, as joyously pointed out by members of the audience at Wednesday’s council meeting.

He was hired by Herbek in April as economic development director following work with the City of Peekskill, Scenic Hudson and his own economic development firm, The Slaughter Group in Beacon.

Mayor Kennedy said the City of Newburgh is the new hot spot for growth and development.

“The word is out,” she said. “And the resumes are already coming in.”

By ALLAN GAUL
agaul@tcnewspapers.com

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