BREAKING: City Manager Pickup resigns

By CHRISTIAN FALCONE

Scott Pickup

Scott Pickup

As the clock struck midnight on Wednesday, time ran out for Scott Pickup.

Republican Mayor Joe Sack announced at Wednesday’s City Council meeting that the council had finalized a separation agreement with Pickup, the city’s embattled manager.

The decision was authorized by a unanimous vote of six members of the Rye City Council. Republican Councilwoman Laura Brett was not at the meeting.

The city manager’s resignation went into effect at 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, April 23, after press time.

Sack also announced former City Manager Frank Culross had once again agreed to step in to the breach.

Culross will take over as interim city manager, an agreement that went into effect at the same time Pickup’s employment contract expired. Culross’ contract will mimic the one he had in place in 2009, the last time he served in an interim role; it paid him an annual salary of $198,000.

Pickup did not attend Wednesday’s City Council meeting, nor was he in attendance at Tuesday night’s Rye Golf Club Commission meeting, fueling speculation his job status may have been in jeopardy. Word of his possible termination began to spread throughout City Hall earlier this week. According to a source with knowledge of the situation, negotiations for Pickup’s departure between his attorney and the city had been in the works for some time.

Pickup’s resignation concludes a tenuous, near four-year stint as the city’s top administrative official. Over that time, Pickup was linked to some of the city’s biggest scandals. His legacy will likely be tied to the Rye Golf Club scandal, in which a former club manager allegedly stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from the club.

Pickup signed-off on some of the fraudulent invoices.

The golf club swindle is considered the largest financial scandal in the city’s history.

Pickup’s critics speculated the nail in his coffin came last November after then Mayor Douglas French, a Republican, announced he would not seek re-election and Sack, a councilman at the time, was elected to the seat, defeating French ally and Pickup supporter, Deputy Mayor Peter Jovanovich.

Sack had been in constant battles with Pickup and the French administration dating back to late 2010.

The separation agreement allows Pickup to stay on board as a city employee until at least July 10, but no later than July 24, according to Sack. Pickup will also receive a lump sum payment of $59,000 and continue to collect on his regular salary of slightly less than $200,000 until his departure date.

By keeping Pickup on board, the mayor said it would help with the transition process, but Pickup will immediately lose his title of city manager to Culross and instead be recognized as assistant to the city manager.

This is not the first time Pickup and Culross have crossed paths.

Following the 2009 ousting of then City Manager Paul Shew, the City Council, under the administration of Democratic Mayor Steve Otis, decided Pickup, then an assistant city manager, was not prepared to run the city’s day-to-day operations and passed him over, appointing Culross to replace Shew.

Culross stayed on for roughly a year before stepping aside for Pickup, who was promoted to the position by a new City Council led by newly elected Mayor French in a deal worked out prior to French’s election in 2009.

Sack said he did not want to entertain a process similar to the one in which the city engaged in during Shew’s removal. At that time, the City Council called a special meeting on St. Patrick’s Day night and invoked the city charter, suspending the city manager for 30 days with the intent of firing him.

As per the charter, a suspension would have allowed for a public hearing if the city manager were to request one.

Sack was a councilman during Shew’s departure and was unsupportive of the decision to use the charter at the time.

“I think a lot of us saw that happen about five years ago with Mr. Shew,” Sack, who was away on business the night Shew was suspended from his managerial duties, said. “[And] I think there was a desire amongst parties to avoid that type of process again.”

Nonetheless, Sack said the time was right to make a change.

“I think we are ahead of the game,” the mayor said. “I think now is the appropriate time for Mr. Pickup and the city to part ways.”

Pickup was first hired by the city in 2005 as an assistant city manager. He grew up in the Midwest and graduated from the University of Cincinnati. Prior to arriving in Rye, Pickup spent four years as a municipal manager in Germantown, Ohio.

CONTACT: chris@hometwn.com 

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About Christian Falcone

Christian Falcone is the editor-in-chief for the Hometown Media Group chain of weekly newspapers covering cities, towns and villages throughout Westchester County. He took over the seat in April 2013. Prior to that he spent more than six years as an associate editor of The Rye Sound Shore Review. Known for his investigative brand of journalism, Christian has collected numerous awards for his reporting. Most notably, he took home honors for his coverage of the 2007 floods as well as Tropical Storm Irene. Most recently, he uncovered the alleged corruption at Rye Golf Club that led to an ongoing criminal investigation by the Westchester County District Attorney’s office. Prior to joining HomeTown Media Group in February 2007, Falcone reported for the Long Island Press and Queens Courier. He is a graduate of Hofstra University. Christian can be reached at 914-653-1000 x19 or at chris@hometwn.com; follow him on Twitter @christfalcone.