Lehman Walker: U. City City Manager Apparently Violates Contract, Keeps His Job


City Manager Lehman Walker of University City.
  • City Manager Lehman Walker of University City.
Lehman Walker, the city manager for University City, was officially censured by the International City/County Management Association on Wednesday, February 29, and also barred from future membership in the organization. The censure part of that would seem to put him in violation of his employment contract with U. City, and yet neither Walker nor Mayor Shelley Welsch appear to be overly-concerned with that.

The reason for ICMA's actions is that Walker violated the ICMA code of ethics -- specifically, Tenets 2, 3 and 4 of this code. Tenet 2 states that when an ICMA member advises or responds to inquiries from elected or appointed officials of local governments other than the one they are currently working for, the member needs to notify the administrators of the community they are advising.

Walker communicated with a University City council member while he was acting as the Director of Community and Economic Development for Evanston, Illinois, and failed to notify the University City administrator; you can read those emails here if you like. The ICMA board also found that he criticized the U. City City Manager's performance during this period of communication.

Tenet 3 states that "members should not seek employment for a position having an incumbent administrator who has not resigned or been officially informed that his or her services are to be terminated." Walker ran afoul of this tenet when he sent his resume to a University City mayoral candidate while still employed by Evanston; University City had a City Manager at this time who had not been terminated.

Tenet 4 requires that members should avoid tenures of shorter than two years (recommended) while employed by a local city government, with special extenuating circumstances. Walker left his position in Evanston after only nine months so that he could assume the position of City Manger in University City, replacing Julie Feier. Walker had previously worked for U. City as the Director of Community Managment for twelve years, leaving that job in 2009 to take the position in Evanston. The ICMA board determined that there were no extenuating circumstances that justified Walker's brief term in Evanston.

University City Mayor Shelley Welsch issued a strong statement of support for Walker, that included the assertation that "The ICMA is a volunteer membership organization; with no accrediting power; with no authority or knowledge to penalize our City Manager." Welsch also called the ICMA's censure, "One more politically-motivated attempt to smear Mr. Walker, using material that has been public for a year and a half, that has already been the subject of a lawsuit that has been suspended, and follows a complaint filed by local officials who have never met - or indeed ever spoken with, Mr. Walker. It's a travesty -- and I hope the people of University City realize this for what it is."

Walker resigned from the ICMA on February 17 of this year -- one week before the ICMA board convened to determine if he would or would not be censured. He claims to be unperturbed by the ICMA ruling or their banning him from rejoining, noting that "there is no job requirement that I belong."

That may be the case, but Walker's employment contract with University City -- available here -- notes under Section 7, paragraph A, that "Termination with cause shall include termination due to: (3) a material breach of this agreement or breach of the ICMA, code of ethics."

According to the ICMA, Walker has breached the group's code of ethics not once, not twice, but thrice. By her own admission, Mayor Welsch has known of the breaches for a year and a half. Draw from that what conclusions you will.


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