Meeting canceled, no vote to fire Johnstown city manager

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Two Johnstown city council members are calling for Johnstown City Manager George Hayfield to resign or be fired. 

Monday night, quorum was not met for a special meeting called by council members Jack Williams and Charlene Stanton to address the issue, so the meeting was canceled.

They say Hayfield broke the city’s Home Rule Charter when he went on vacation at the end of the year because he appointed an acting city manager without council’s prior approval. They believe that is cause for his termination.

Hayfield told WTAJ that he went on vacation to the Poconos and Richmond at the end of 2018 to visit family over the holidays. Before he left, he told Mayor Frank Janakovic where he would be, left contact numbers, notified department heads and said that he would come back if there was an emergency. He also left Finance Director Robert Ritter in charge.

That’s where Williams and Stanton say Hayfield broke city rules. According to Article 6 of the charter, it states, “At any time the City Manager is unable to perform the duties of that office, whether because of absence or disability, he or she may delegate such authority to another Municipal employee, subject to prior approval by Council.”

Williams said the city may have been in jeopardy if there was an emergency.

“[Ritter] had no power or authority to execute contracts or take any special actions needed,” Williams said.

Mayor Frank Janakovic defended Hayfield in a statement to WTAJ, saying that Hayfield “has been doing a great job” and called it an attempt “to create chaos.”

Councilwoman Rev. Sylvia King told WTAJ, “I feel that the way it’s being handled is very unprofessional, unnecessary and downright un-Christ-like.

Hayfield called it “an attempt to intimidate” and pointed out that he never appointed Ritter.

“I simply said he can answer any questions when I’m gone,” Hayfield said.

Councilman Ricky Britt said he was shocked that anyone would want to fire Hayfield over wanting to take a vacation and spend time with family for the holidays.

“Fire a guy? Take a guy’s livelihood? I mean, come on. That’s childish,” Britt said.

Williams and Stanton say they plan to propose the resolution to fire Hayfield at the next meeting on January 16 and they may take the issue to court.

“How can council continually violate the laws of the city, but expect [citizens] to follow the laws?” Stanton asked. “There’s absolutely no accountability here.”

Britt and Hayfield said a lawsuit would cost the city money it doesn’t have.

“If [Williams] wants to make a legal issue of it he can,” Hayfield said. “I think he’ll lose, but the city will pay for that as well.”

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