After deliberating nearly six hours over two special meetings in the span of three days, the Chico City Council figured out what to do with the city manager position Friday afternoon (March 25): part ways with Mark Orme and appoint Police Chief Matt Madden to fill the post on an interim basis.
Council members met four hours Tuesday night in closed session to discuss Orme’s job performance; the result was the second special meeting called for 2 p.m. Friday. Seven speakers, including City Hall staffer Courtney Carrier, advocated to retain Orme, who came to Chico in 2013 as assistant city manager and has been city manager since 2014.
Gaylord Enns, a resident for 58 years, was one of three who told the council that it would be “a gamble” to seek someone else, saying: “There’s never been a more difficult time for city leadership than what we’re experiencing today. We can always pick at our leaders. We can always find something they can do better.”
A dozen supporters prayed with Orme and his family while the council convened in closed session. After an hour, City Attorney Vince Ewing asked to meet with him in the City Council Chambers conference room not occupied by the council. Orme returned 15 minutes later, huddled with city staff, kissed his wife and waited for the formal announcement—another 40 minutes.
With the council reseated at the dais, Ewing disclosed:
· Vice Mayor Kasey Reynolds moved, with a second from Councilman Sean Morgan, to have the city attorney negotiate separation terms with Orme; the motion passed 5-2, with Councilmen Dale Bennett and Michael O’Brien dissenting.
· The council unanimously approved the negotiated terms, on a motion made by O’Brien and seconded by Bennett.
· On a motion from Morgan, seconded by O’Brien (the previous police chief), the council voted 6-1 to install Madden as interim city manager; Councilwoman Alex Brown (the lone progressive among conservatives on the panel) dissented.
Ewing announced no further details, though City Clerk Debbie Presson confirmed to the CN&R that the additional title of emergency services director, which Orme has held since the declaration of emergency for the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, carries to his successor even for a short term. Mayor Andrew Coolidge, Madden and Orme declined to comment.
After the meeting, the city released a letter of resignation from Orme and a note from Coolidge thanking the city manager for his service.