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An ice storm hit the Austin area the week of Jan. 30. Hundreds of thousands of residents and businesses lost power as ice-covered trees toppled power lines across the city.

Council members signal they could fire City Manager Spencer Cronk next week

Austin City Manager Spencer Cronk at a news conference during Austin's ice storm on Feb. 3.
Patricia Lim
/
KUT
Spencer Cronk has been Austin's city manager since February 2018.

Austin City Manager Spencer Cronk could be on his way out.

The Austin City Council is slated to vote on the employment and a possible severance package for Cronk at their meeting on Feb. 15.

Council initially planned the Wednesday meeting to discuss the city's contract with the Austin police union, but over the weekend added two items to discuss Cronk's employment – an indication the embattled city manager could soon be fired. Council met in a closed-door session Thursday to discuss his employment.

Austin's city manager came under fire after the city's response to last week's ice storm, when multiple council members suggested assessing Cronk's performance as city manager, a position he's held since 2018. Friday, KUT's Audrey McGlinchy confirmed Council had unanimously decided to find a new city manager in a closed-door meeting.

Saturday night, Cronk said he "was not made aware" about next week's discussion.

"I will simply reiterate that I remain Austin’s City Manager and no actions have been taken by this new Mayor and Council to change my responsibilities or role," Cronk said in a statement. "I continue to be focused on serving this community and leading our dedicated workforce."

Thursday, Cronk's tension with Council seemingly reached a breaking point. Cronk called a press conference that morning announcing the city had reached a four-year agreement with the Austin Police Association on a longterm labor contract. That announcement came ahead of a previously scheduled City Council vote to favor a one-year, temporary deal – one that the majority of Council supported.

At Thursday's Austin City Council meeting, District 4 Council Member Chito Vela suggested Cronk was going against Council's will.

"These actions have caused me to lose my faith in your leadership of the city," Vela said Thursday. "I do believe it is time for a new city manager.”

In his Saturday statement, Cronk said he was still committed to a four-year agreement with the Austin Police Association and that he has "serious concerns" a one-year deal could be detrimental to the department's recruitment and retention efforts.

This is not the first time Cronk's ability to lead has comeinto question. As the city's top executive, he refused to fire former Austin Police Chief Brian Manley in 2020. That came after a majority of council members said they had no faith Manley's ability to lead the department in the wake of the response to racial justice protests and the death of Mike Ramos. Manley ultimately resigned.

If Cronk is fired or if he decides to resign, Cronk's contract guarantees him one year of pay, which is $388,000, unless he's fired for a criminal act.

KUT’s Audrey McGlinchy contributed to this story.

Andrew Weber is a general assignment reporter for KUT, focusing on criminal justice, policing, courts and homelessness in Austin and Travis County. Got a tip? You can email him at aweber@kut.org. Follow him on Twitter @England_Weber.
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