The council, which welcomed three recently elected members at the start of the meeting, voted 5-1 to accept Wood’s resignation without any conversation or questions asked by any member of the council except Councilman Hooky Huffman, the lone dissenter to the move.
Huffman, who is starting his third year of his first term in office, said Friday he opposed accepting the resignation because Wood was told to quit by Mayor Gene Hobgood, who has sometimes been at odds with the city manager.
“It is Chicago-style, Washington-style type of government that he’s trying to run,” said Huffman, who has also had his differences with the mayor. “It’s a travesty. (People) don’t know what goes on behind the scenes, you just don’t know.”
Hobgood declined to confirm or deny Friday if Wood was asked to quit.
“That ought to tell you something,” the mayor said. He added he didn’t think anyone would be served by going into the details of the matter.
Wood could not be reached for comment Friday, but he wrote in his letter of resignation that he wasn’t “angry” with anyone. He also asked for the severance pay. After Wood’s resignation, which was effective immediately, Chief Financial Officer Nathan Ingram will take over as acting city manager for up to two weeks as Canton decides how to move forward.
As part of Wood’s resignation, he will receive six months of severance pay, which is more than $77,000, according to the city.
Wood’s contract signed in October 2009 states he is entitled to six months of pay in the event that his contract is terminated by the city “without cause.” If he resigns, the contract states he gets no severance.
Hobgood declined to go into much detail about when or how the agreement was made to pay Wood severance, even though his contract didn’t technically require it if he resigned.
“I think the bottom line is we wanted to move in a different direction and we weren’t out to destroy anybody or anything like that,” he said. “There was a lot of talk and discussion even before the campaign and so forth. I think people had an idea, and I think Mr. Wood anticipated that as well.”
After the meeting Thursday night, the mayor said Wood had turned his letter of resignation in about 10 minutes before the meeting.
When Councilman Glen Cummins brought the resignation letter before the council to accept, Huffman said he hadn’t even seen it.
“Did he give a reason for his resignation?”
Huffman, clearly frustrated, asked the council Thursday night. “It’s open for discussion. Who accepted his resignation? Where is it? I don’t see it.”
Hobgood handed him a copy and, less than 60 seconds after Cummins announced that Wood had turned in his resignation, the council voted to accept, with Huffman voting emphatically, “No.”
New council members Sandy McGrew and Bill Grant, who were sworn in Thursday night, each said Friday they didn’t exactly know how Wood came to quit. They both said they only found out just before the meeting and were fine with the terms.
But McGrew said that she understood that Hobgood and Wood made an agreement.
New Councilman John R. Rust, who was also sworn in Thursday night, said Friday that he came into the meeting with little knowledge of the situation with Wood.
“I never even read the letter he sent,” Rust said. “He resigned. I didn’t have anything to do with that. I don’t know what happened.”
Rust said he had been an observer of the council for years and remembered the last time Wood found his employment in question in 2011. In April 2011, Wood was placed on six months’ probation after he was pulled over by a Canton Police officer and council members questioned his handling of the situation, along with some other job duties.
“It doesn’t come as a big surprise to me,” Rust said. “We’ll just move on.”
Seated Councilman Jack Goodwin also said the city is moving on, though he wasn’t clear on why Wood resigned.
“I really hate to lose him,” Goodwin said Friday, adding that he didn’t have a problem with paying Wood severance. “I think he was an excellent city manager. If he wants to resign then that’s his prerogative.”
For Cummins, accepting Wood’s resignation and the severance pay that went along with it was the “easiest, quietest” way to address the issue.
“I may have had a different viewpoint of how to handle it, but I chose to accept what was presented, because I think it is best for the city to get past that chapter in the book,” Cummins said Friday. “I just think for the city’s benefit we need to move forward. The fact of the matter is he has resigned. Let’s move ahead.”
In Wood’s letter of resignation, he stated that he felt conflicted about quitting, but he wasn’t upset.
“This is a great community and I have been privileged to live and work here for the past four years,” Wood wrote. “I am not angry with anyone and in many ways hate that this time has come, but the truth of the matter is that from time to time, new and fresh perspectives are needed in various positions…”