The Hilton Head Town Council spoke privately Tuesday afternoon in a special meeting to discuss the town manager’s position — the second closed meeting this month on the matter.
After nearly an hour of private discussion on the status of longtime town manager Steve Riley’s job, council members took no formal action when they returned to the public part of the meeting. They also did not take action on Riley’s position during the regularly scheduled council meeting, held after the special meeting.
The special meeting came in the wake of Riley’s latest out-of-state job search. Riley interviewed last week for the city manager position in San Marcos, Texas, but, according to a release from the city, was not selected from among the five finalists.
Tuesday’s closed session, permitted by S.C. law under certain circumstances, was the only item on the agenda of the special meeting. The executive session, according to a written notice, involved “discussion of negotiations incident to proposed contractual arrangements with the Town Manager.”
Just before the session began, Town Council member Kim Likins made a motion, which was approved, to amend the agenda to include “discussion of employment, appointment, compensation or release of employee.”
Riley said earlier Tuesday that he did not think he would be at the executive session, though he added he would be at Town Hall. He said he could not comment on why the special meeting was called.
Greg DeLoach, assistant town manager, said afterward only the mayor and other council members were present at the executive session.
A special meeting of the council was called earlier this month to discuss “contractual matters” and “appointment protocol” related to the town manager. Council members took no formal action after that private meeting.
According to town code, a special meeting of the Town Council can be called by the mayor or a majority of council.
David Bennett, mayor of Hilton Head, said he could not comment on Tuesday’s special meeting, or why two such meetings have been called this month.
Riley declined comment Tuesday about whether he has any ongoing job search.
Last year, Riley was a finalist for city manager positions in Forney, Texas, and Savannah, and a city administrator position in Davenport, Iowa. At the time, he cited conflicts with Bennett as the reason for his job search.
Riley had an on-site interview for the Davenport job but was not offered the position. He was among 12 finalists for the Savannah position but was not part of the final six. He withdrew from the search in Forney, Texas.
Riley’s annual salary is $175,203, according to town officials. His contract renews automatically each fiscal year, which starts July 1, unless the automatic-renewal provision is terminated by the Town Council by April 30 in any given year, which wasn’t done this year. Stopping the automatic renewal would not terminate the contract agreement itself.
Causes for termination listed in Riley’s contract, which would allow him to receive payment due to him up through the date of termination, include, among other things:
▪ “Mr. Riley’s commission or omission of any act which, in Town Council’s opinion, is intended to cause, causes, or is reasonably likely to cause harm to the Town, including harm to its reputation.”
▪ “Mr. Riley’s material breach of this Agreement.”
▪ “The exhibition of Mr. Riley of a standard of behavior that is disruptive to the orderly conduct of the Town’s business operations to a level which, in Town Council’s opinion, is detrimental to the Town’s best interest.”
▪ “Mr. Riley’s failure to disclose any outside teaching, consulting or other business opportunities to Town Council or to comply with Council direction regarding such arrangements.”
The contract also allows the town to terminate Riley’s contract without cause, provided upon payment of salary and benefits for 365 calendar days.
Riley has been Hilton Head’s manager since 1994 and has worked for the town since 1991. Previously, he was a planner for the city of Beaufort and Beaufort County, along with a private consulting firm in the Midwest, according to the town’s website.