The Portland City Council approved a one-year contract extension for City Manager Jon Jennings Monday. Jennings, seen here at a March coronavirus press conference, intends to step down in July 2022 at the end of the contract. Brianna Soukup / Portland Press Herald

PORTLAND — The City Council Monday extended City Manager Jon Jennings’ contract for another year.

The local Black Lives Matter effort, now known as Black POWER, this summer called for Jennings to resign, saying some of his policy decisions have adversely impacted people of color. They also said he had backed a “law enforcement approach to poverty, homelessness, and mental and behavioral health struggles.”

The council and Mayor Kate Snyder were quick to defend Jennings at the time, saying he was committed to racial and economic justice.

The new contract, which follows Jennings’ first performance evaluation in three years, provides him with the same $169,812 salary, plus cost of living adjustments as his current contract, which expires in July 2021. It also includes a bonus of $21,170 at the end of the contract extension.

Jennings, hired as Portland’s city manager in 2015, intends to step down from the position in July 2022.

“In light of everything the city is facing right now due to the pandemic and its impact on our fiscal health, I agreed to stay on for an additional year to assist the mayor and council as we continue to navigate these unprecedented times,” Jennings said in a prepared statement.

Representatives from Black POWER could not be reached for comment regarding Jennings’ extension.

Snyder said she is glad to have Jennings stay on until 2022 so the council does not have to embark on a city manager search “in addition to everything else that is on our plates right now.”

Councilor Nick Mavodones said he has “a great deal of confidence in the manager” and was happy to offer him an extension.

“I think he has done a great job. It is a very difficult position,” said Mavodones, who, along with Jill Duson, was part of the council that hired Jennings.

Duson said while she “very much respects and looks for input” from the city manager in making policy decisions on behalf of the city, it is the council and not the city manager that has the ultimate authority in deciding city policy.

Jennings became Portland’s city manager after two years as assistant city manager in South Portland. Prior to getting into municipal government, he was the general manager, president and founder of the Maine Red Claws, the G-League basketball team based in Portland. He was a longtime scout/coach with the Boston Celtics, worked in the White House and and was state director for U.S. Sen.  John Kerry’s office in Massachusetts.

Some community members, Snyder said, questioned whether it was appropriate to have the current council evaluate the city manager and offer him a new contract when three new councilors will be coming on board next month. They suggested the review and contract issue should be put off until Mark Dion, April Fournier and Andrew Zarro, elected Nov. 3, are sworn in Dec. 7.

“It’s wholly appropriate this council is the body to evaluate, discuss and decide the next steps associated with the city manager’s contract,” Snyder said.

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