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News / Politics / Clark County Politics

Outgoing Woodland mayor lays off top city officials with six months severance

Will Finn said incoming mayor 'targeted them … putting them in an unsafe working environment'; new mayor denies allegations

By Matt Esnayra, The Daily News, Longview
Published: January 4, 2024, 6:43pm

WOODLAND — As one of his last acts as Woodland’s mayor, Will Finn let go two top city officials and a high-ranking police officer with severance packages because he thought the incoming mayor would treat them unfairly, a claim current Mayor Todd Dinehart denies and called a rumor.

In an email last Friday to the Woodland City Council and city department heads, Finn announced he released City Administrator Peter Boyce and Woodland Public Works Director Tracy Coleman due to a “new environment of hostility” that would be “coming forward as a standard daily practice.”

Finn said Dinehart was critical of Boyce and Coleman during the 2023 election cycle, so he would likely do the same now that he’s taken the position.

“I felt Mr. Dinehart targeted them, as a result, putting them in an unsafe working environment,” Finn said in an email.

Dinehart told The Daily News Finn created disparaging rumors about him because Finn is upset he lost his seat. He said he’s disappointed Finn let the officials go.

Boyce and Coleman’s last day was Dec. 31, according to Finn’s email, and Finn was replaced by Dinehart Jan. 1. Finn lost to Dinehart in November when Finn received roughly 30% of the votes.

Tuesday night, Dinehart issued a brief press release saying the “two terminations and an unbudgeted position led to an emergency special” City Council meeting on Monday, which was New Year’s Day. The meeting was an executive session, which means it was closed to the public, and the agenda states the council planned to discuss potential litigation.

Community Development Director Travis Goddard said he’s handling some of Boyce’s responsibilities, and Dinehart will select a new city administrator. At Tuesday’s Woodland City Council meeting, Dinehart said he’s working to fill the positions “as fast as I can.”

Woodland Police Lt. Jennifer Ortiz was also let go after the Woodland City Council approved a budget that didn’t include funds to pay for the position. Finn said he created the lieutenant position and faced “resistance internally and externally.” However, at Tuesday’s meeting, City Council budgeted to replace the officer, Dinehart said.

Boyce, Coleman and Ortiz received severance pay. Boyce and Coleman received six months, and Ortiz received three. Dinehart said the severance packages cost $200,000 from city reserves.

With Ortiz’s departure, Finn said the Woodland police wellness dog program will end. Finn said before her departure, Ortiz secured a $50,000 grant to expand the Woodland Police Department’s drone program. The former mayor also praised Coleman for securing millions in outside funding as public works director.

He said Boyce and Coleman are at-will employees without a labor union to protect them.

“My greatest fear is leaving an unrepresentative employee in an unsafe working environment,” said Finn.

Finn said he enacted a portion of Boyce and Coleman’s contracts that released them from their respective duties. He also said “everyone parted ways on positive terms.”

“Any time there’s a new change in administration, there are changes at the executive level. You’ll see that with any government across our state and across the country,” he said.