Forest Hill city manager given severance package, placed on administrative leave

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The Forest Hill City Council voted unanimously to give City Manager Sheyi Ipaye a severance package and place him on administrative leave until Oct. 29.

The action followed an executive session that lasted about four hours Monday. The motion to give Ipaye the severance package did not include the amount.

Ipaye could not be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon, but after the vote in favor of the severance package, he thanked the council members and the Forest Hill residents who supported him.

“I want to thank each of you for a good run to be a city manager for about 12 years,” he said. “I am very grateful. I have no bad feelings toward anybody given the opportunities that have been given to me.”.

Ipaye said he will help with the transition and make sure things work “very smoothly.”

The council also voted to name Venus Wehle, Forest Hill economic development director, as interim city manager.

Before the council voted on the severance package residents spoke in support and opposition to Ipaye staying on as city manager. They also chastised council members for their lack of oversight of Ipaye and how the money is being spent.

Former council member Stephanie Boardingham accused Ipaye during the meeting of taking thousands of dollars from city coffers, including a payout for 500 hours of sick time during the pandemic. She also said he was paid $5,000 as an essential worker while firefighters and police officers got $500.

Boardingham said she obtained the information from open records requests because she wants to clean up the corruption.

Ipaye could not be reached for comment on Boardingham’s allegations.

Another resident, Norma Lopez Garcia, said she has been in Forest Hill since the 1980s when her parents immigrated from Mexico.

“Not only do I call for the city manager to resign, but I call on the city council to reflect on where’s the accountability. We still don’t have a grocery store. All I see is hotels and busted streets,” she said.

But former mayor Gerald Joubert praised Ipaye for working hard to shore up Forest Hill’s finances. He said that 10 years ago, the city had a $6 million budget. Now, it has $20 million in surplus funds.

“We have a city manager that loves the city,” Joubert said. “We have a new city hall and a new convention center.”

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