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City administrator is asked to resign

A week after being appointed city manager, Bill Horne on Thursday prompted the sudden resignation of the city administrator who negotiated the deal to build the Philadelphia Phillies a new spring training stadium.

Keith Ashby, who headed the city's General Support Services Department, was asked to resign Thursday morning after Horne concluded Ashby was "incompatible" with the city's organization, Horne said.

Ashby, 57, made an annual salary of $70,000 and oversaw a department with 80 employees that was responsible for the city's building and fleet maintenance divisions. He also oversaw the city's grant-writing efforts, managed the Philadelphia Phillies stadium project and handled employee grievances for the city.

Horne said his decision to suggest Ashby's resignation was not prompted by any one incident. Horne cited several factors.

In the past two weeks, Ashby had to defend his decision to offer the city's grant-writing job to an internal city candidate without interviewing other candidates who had a significant amount of experience, said Paul O'Rourke, the city's human resources administrator.

Ashby also made a salary offer to the new grant writer that included a 25 percent raise, but Ashby didn't have the authority to make the offer, O'Rourke said. O'Rourke said that put him in the "humbling" position of having to downgrade the city's offer to a very good city employee.

O'Rourke met with Ashby Thursday morning at Horne's behest. Ashby resigned, effective immediately.

Before that incident, a secretary in Ashby's department filed a discrimination complaint that she had been sexually harassed by a co-worker and faced retaliation in the form of poor evaluations after reporting it to her bosses.

Also, the city's former grant writer had filed a federal complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that she was not receiving fair pay compared with that of male counterparts. She felt Ashby had not taken her issues seriously enough, according to the complaint, which was dismissed by the EEOC.

And a former secretary to Ashby filed no official complaint but gave co-workers a letter when she resigned last year, explaining she found working for Ashby to be stressful.

As a result of those developments, Horne had warned Ashby to try to avoid controversies with employees in his department. Ashby maintained he had done nothing wrong in each situation.

Reached at home Thursday, Ashby said he had no hard feelings about his time with the city and was parting amicably.

"We had a mutual agreement that it was in both our best interests for me to move on," Ashby said. "I'm very pleased with what happened at the city. I have an interesting background of experiences, and I'll fall back on those and look at different options."

Ashby also said he thought he made the right decision about hiring the city's new grant writer.

Former City Manager Mike Roberto had hired Ashby as his chief of staff. Ashby's prior experience included rising to colonel as a pilot in the Air Force, working as a lobbyist in Washington, D.C., and directing Europe's largest air show.

Under his contract, Ashby will receive a severance package worth $39,203, which includes four months of salary, pension contributions and medical coverage, in addition to payments for unused leave time and the use of a placement service.