A decision by Coatesville Thursday to show its finance director the door - the third city official advocating reform to exit within the past two months - has sparked spirited debate.
Stacy Bjorhus, who was hired in September 2009, said she was being terminated. She declined further comment, saying she had not yet reviewed the severance package she received.
City Council President Joseph Hamrick said he could not discuss a personnel action and referred questions to City Manager Gary Rawlings.
Rawlings said Bjorhus was technically placed on "paid administrative leave," which he acknowledged was a step toward termination. He said a final decision would occur at the Nov. 14 Council meeting and that he might be able to discuss the reasons after that.
"She was fired for doing her job," said Matt Baker, a grassroots activist who resigned from the city's Redevelopment Authority in late September.
"If this is what city officials are going to do, they should shut the place down," he said. "Let the state take over."
Karl Marking, the former City Council president who stepped down in late August, said Bjorhus's attempts to reform the city's finances had angered employees who had benefitted from a lack of oversight.
"This comes as no surprise to me," said Marking. "Ms. Bjorhus has been fighting against the status quo at City Hall - a culture of occlusion and fiscal irresponsibility."
Marking and Baker linked Bjorhus's dismissal to her efforts to overhaul an outdated solid-waste billing system which revealed that at least three Council members, Ed Simpson, Martin Eggleston, and Hamrick, owed the city money for waste water service.
They also noted that Bjorhus had uncovered records that showed that Councilman Jarrell Brazzle received sick and vacation benefits to which he was not entitled when he worked part-time for the city in 2008 and 2009.
Eggleston said firing someone for that reason would be "downright stupid."
"It's not true," he said, adding that only Rawlings could explain the "real reasons" for Bjorhus's termination.
Brazzle also disputed the notion that Bjorhus was let go for being a whistle-blower.
"The city is encouraging people to come forward with complaints about wrongdoing," he said. "It's the only way to move forward."
Asked about money he received for sick and vacation time when he was a part-time employee in the city's Recreation Department, Brazzle said he deserved the money because those benefits were included in the letter he signed when he took the job.
"I'm not going to pay something back when it's not my mistake," he said.
Bjorhus's departure leaves only two people left in the department, Rawlings said. Dharmesh "Raj" Kalaria resigned abruptly in August. At the end of 2009, Maria Kauffman, a city bookkeeper, was terminated after she was convicted of taking a bribe in 2008 to clear a resident's trash bill.
Questioned about the dwindling personnel, Rawlings said he would oversee the city's finances until a new director could be hired.
"Change is always difficult," he said. "It's my job to keep the boat afloat."