Attention Readers: Find Us in Your Mailbox Soon
With the coronavirus stats going in the right direction, all of us at C&G Newspapers look forward to resuming publication of the St. Clair Shores Sentinel and Birmingham-Bloomfield Eagle on May 27th. All other C&G newspapers will begin publishing on June 10th (Advertiser-Times on June 24th). In the meantime, continue to find local news on our website and look for us on Facebook and Twitter.

Paul Brake to start as Royal Oak city manager May 21

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published April 17, 2020

 Paul Brake, city manager of Morgantown, West Virginia, interviews for the position of Royal Oak city manager at Royal Oak City Hall March 12. On April 13, the Royal Oak City Commission unanimously approved an employee agreement with Brake, and his start date is May 21.

Paul Brake, city manager of Morgantown, West Virginia, interviews for the position of Royal Oak city manager at Royal Oak City Hall March 12. On April 13, the Royal Oak City Commission unanimously approved an employee agreement with Brake, and his start date is May 21.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

ROYAL OAK — On April 13, the Royal Oak City Commission unanimously approved an employee agreement with city manager finalist Paul Brake, the city manager of Morgantown, West Virginia.

According to the agreement, Brake will begin his new role as Royal Oak City Manager May 21 at an annual salary of $150,000. In a decision that commissioners described as “extraordinarily hard,” Brake bested Lathrup Village City Administrator Sheryl Mitchell and Oak Park City Manager Erik Tungate after a second and final round of interviews March 12.

The city agreed to pay moving expenses from West Virginia; provide a car allowance of $600 per month; a cellphone allowance of $75 per month; a city contribution of 15% of Brake’s base salary to his retirement account; five weeks of paid vacation per year; a minimum 60-day advance notice of resignation to the city; no severance pay if terminated for just cause; and nine months of severance pay if termination is not for just cause.

On March 16, the City Commission voted unanimously to offer the position of city manager to Brake, and after negotiations, interim City Attorney David Gillam said Brake had already signed the final draft prior to the April 13 meeting.

Mayor Pro Tem Patricia Paruch said the tipping point for her in choosing Brake was that, based on her gut feeling, he was best prepared to lead the city through whatever comes next due to the COVID-19 emergency.

Brake expressed a strong interest in returning to Michigan and has roots in the state.

During his second-round interview, Brake said he worked in Michigan at the township, city and county levels, and also worked in an office in downtown Royal Oak, where he was “struck by the vibrancy” of the community.

“I truly believe that the skills that I’ve learned through strategic planning, citizen outreach, equity inclusion, sustainability and fiscal stewardship are a strong match for what you need,” Brake said March 12. “My collaborative work style and stakeholder engagement experience have really given me the ability to be successful.”

The city agreed to pay Brake a one-time bonus of $10,000 if he establishes permanent residency within Royal Oak on or before May 21, 2021.

Gillam said Brake has a home in West Virginia and Brake’s wife is currently living in the former home they lived in together in the Lansing area when Brake was employed in Michigan. Gillam said Brake’s wife remained in the area to care for an ailing family member, and the intention is for them to sell both homes and purchase a new home in Royal Oak together.

Some commissioners raised concerns about Brake’s need to travel domestically between West Virginia and Michigan during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gillam said Brake requested a signed letter on city letterhead indicating he would be employed as city manager effective in May “so he will be able to travel back and forth between here and West Virginia as needed, hopefully without any interference or problems as far as any law enforcement agency is concerned. Other than that, he said he’ll make it work.”

Paruch said the city gave a little and Brake gave a little during contract negotiations.

“I’m delighted that he’s excited about starting earlier. I think we anticipated he would be able to start before July 1,” she said. “The fact that he’s eager to start earlier and ready to jump in I think is great.”

Mayor Michael Fournier said he felt that Brake was going to be “a really good match” for Royal Oak.

“I thought this process was going to be more painful than it was. It was a positive experience, and we have a great new manager coming on board,” Fournier said.

The city set out on a national search to find a replacement after former City Manager Don Johnson retired June 30, 2019, after nearly 14 years with the city. He held the position of city manager for the past decade and served as finance director before that.

Johnson briefly entertained the notion of returning to work as the Royal Oak city manager until the city could find a replacement, but the Royal Oak City Commission denied his proposed flat rate of $18,000 per month, and he subsequently rejected the city’s counteroffer of $14,000 per month.

On March 2, the Mount Clemens City Commission appointed Johnson to serve as the Mount Clemens city manager.

For more information, visit www.romi.gov or call Royal Oak City Hall at (248) 246-3000.