Cronk gets bonked: Austin City Council removes City Manager Spencer Cronk for winter storm failings

Madeline Duncan, Senior News Reporter

The Austin City Council voted to remove Spencer Cronk from his position as city manager due to his shortcomings during winter storm Mara in a special session on Feb. 15. 

The council voted 10-1 to remove Cronk and appoint Jesús Garza as interim city manager.  Garza previously served as city manager from 1994 to 2002. Cronk will depart with a $463,000 severance pay, which includes one year salary and vacation payout. 

In a press release following the vote, Cronk thanked the city for his time as manager. 

“I serve at the pleasure of the Mayor and Council and acknowledge their decision,” Cronk said. “In our Council-Manager form of government, the elected officials ultimately decide whether I am the right choice for them to lead our organization. I stand proud of our organizational accomplishments under my tenure. I thank the Austin community for the opportunity to lead this great city, and I thank our City employees for their consistent commitment to providing the very best public service.”

The decision was made after the council went into executive session to discuss the legality of firing Cronk.

District 1 council member Natasha Harper-Madison, the only vote against terminating Cronk, released a statement on Twitter saying removing Cronk would not solve the issues responsible for the city’s power outages. 

“I chose not to support the immediate termination of our city manager because this action will not solve the systemic issues within our city government or our collective response to the recent winter storm,” Harper-Madison said in a statement. “From high-level operational concerns like inadequate staffing within city (departments) and the immediate needs of residents who walked out their front doors this morning to still find downed power lines on their property, terminating the city manager will not remedy those concerns.”

During public comment, citizens expressed their frustration with Cronk’s failure to serve the city during the storm. District 9 resident Elizabeth Gerbrick asked the council to pay Cronk no more severance than the minimum contractual obligation. 

“(Cronk’s) salary is near 10 times that of the median Austinite, including mine,” Gerbrick said. “Spencer Cronk will be fine, the people of the city of Austin who suffered under him will not be.”

District 9 council member Zo Quadri voted to remove Cronk, but released a statement on Twitter thanking him for his time. 

“I thank Spencer Cronk for serving as city manager during a period of extraordinary difficulties,” Quadri said. “I look forward to working with our new interim manager, Jesús Garza, as we work to rebuild trust in our city government.”