The City Council has approved a contract spelling out the duties and responsibilities of the city administrator.

The contract does not change the $32,800 annual salary paid to City Administrator Richard N. Warne, who noted that no city employee has received a pay increase this year because of tight city finances. Warne said the contract is very basic and is similar to those between most cities and their chief executive officer.The contract carries no renewal date since Warne serves at the pleasure of the council and is subject to termination at any time without cause. Unlike most city employees who are entitled to civil service protection and can be terminated only for cause, top administrators can be removed by a simple majority vote of the council.

Warne said the contract will ensure that new members of the council understand the original terms of employment for the administrator. He said this helps prevent misunderstandings and smooth transitions in the governing structure.

Councilwoman Merlynn Newbold said she agreed with most of the terms of the contract, but she said she had concerns over the severance pay clause, which would give Warne 50 percent of his salary should the council terminate his employment. Warne said the amount in the contract is standard and is set by state statute. He also emphasized that severance pay comes into effect only if the council terminates the contract but not if he should accept employment elsewhere.

Warne said this portion provides the administrator some protection to compensate for the lack of recourse. He said being subject to shifting political winds is a hazard of the profession and the severance pay provision is about the only protection provided to administrators.

The political winds seem to be favoring Warne, who has been highly praised by both council members and the general public in recent council meetings. Several city residents at a public hearing last month concerning the city's parks and recreation master plan praised Warne for his personal involvement in many issues and his response to complaints and problems.

Council members also praised his involvement, although they suggested he may have gotten too involved last winter when he was found driving a city snow plow.