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Shawnee City Council fires city manager Doug Gerber after explicit video scandal

Shawnee City Manager Doug Gerber.
Shawnee Mission Post
Shawnee City Manager Doug Gerber.

The council voted unanimously 7-0 to terminate Gerber’s employment with cause. His firing comes after nearly two weeks of controversy for the city sparked by the revelation that someone had sent a sexually explicit video of Gerber to some city staffers, an incident that apparently was not reported to elected city leaders.

The Shawnee City Council fired City Manager Doug Gerber following a closed-door executive session during its council meeting Monday night.

After returning from executive session, the council voted unanimously 7-0 to terminate Gerber’s employment with cause. Councilmember Kurt Knappen was absent.

Doug Whitacre will continue as interim city manager for the time being. City councilmembers did not publicly comment on the firing after voting.

Gerber could not immediately be reached for comment Monday night.

The firing comes after video uproar

Gerber’s firing comes after nearly two weeks of controversy for the city sparked by the revelation that someone had sent a sexually explicit video of Gerber to some city staffers, an incident which apparently was not reported to elected city leaders.

In late September, multiple employees received an email containing a video of Gerber masturbating, according to a Kansas City Star story first reported on Nov. 1.

The anonymous sender — a third party outside of city hall — told the Star they “wanted to reveal Gerber’s online behavior.” It’s unclear at this point how the outside party obtained the video, and the distribution of the video, if it was done without Gerber’s consent, could constitute a criminal act.

Members of city council and Mayor Michelle Distler said they were blindsided by the news and angered that it took more than a month for them to be notified about the video.

“From my understanding, [most city employees] didn’t even know about it, as well. They found out about it the same way we did — through the Kansas City Star,” Councilmember Angela Stiens said previously.

Councilmember Eric Jenkins also previously said he was confused about why the council had not been informed of the video.

“That wasn’t good. Nobody felt like they should step up and tell the governing body,” he said in a previous interview with the Post.

Gerber was put on paid leave earlier this month

After the Star report ran, city council unanimously voted on Wednesday, Nov. 1, to place Gerber on paid administrative leave while it explored its options.

Some councilmembers made it clear then they saw no future with Gerber as city manager.

“I feel for the man and his family, and I do feel like as a city, we’ll move forward from this,” Stiens said that night Gerber was put on leave following a special city council meeting.

A week after the video’s existence was made public, several incumbents, including Jenkins, who had previously voiced their confidence in Gerber lost their seats in the general election.

For his part, Knappen expressed suspicions about the timing of the release of the video and the reports on it.

“I do think that what happened over the past two weeks with City Manager Gerber was probably part of a disgusting election-timed [attack,] which is very disappointing,” he previously wrote in an email to the Post.

Gerber was approved by city council in February

Gerber received unanimous approval from the city council to become city manager.

He replaced predecessor Nolan Sunderman, who left the position, citing a “separate vision” from the city council.

According to his contract, Gerber was paid a salary of $190,000, along with $10,000 to cover “relocation expenses.”

Gerber, at the time of his hiring, lived outside Topeka and was given 12 months to move to Shawnee as part of the terms of his contract. It’s not clear if he ever moved to Shawnee.

When he was hired, Gerber touted his love of a local government and saw Shawnee as a good fit.

“I believe in the power of local government to make communities better, and it’s the government closest to the people. We’re working for our friends and neighbors and people we see at the grocery store and people we go to church with and those things matter,” he said in an interview with the Post after he assumed his role in March.

Outgoing Mayor Michelle Distler said some issues were reported about Gerber at his previous jobs — including roles in Topeka city government — during the process to select him but that the city council ultimately decided to move forward with his hiring.

“The governing body had been made aware of previous issues and accusations against Mr. Gerber,” she said in a previous statement. “The additional concerns I raised during those discussions were dismissed, and the council proceeded to choose Mr. Gerber, stating he most closely aligned with their values.”

Gerber’s wife alleges a ‘criminal scam’

In a statement last week, Michele Gerber, Doug Gerber’s wife, said her family had been the target of multiple crimes related to the recording and that it was part of a “criminal scam.”

“The criminal targeted me and my family twice, both prior to the sending of the e-mail to city employees and again prior to the sending of the press e-mail,” she wrote in an email.

Gerber said the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the alleged crime, though a spokesperson for the sheriff’s office said they could not confirm an ongoing investigation.

Legal experts say a person who knowingly distributes a video featuring a sexual act without a person’s consent could face a number of criminal charges, including stalking, breach of privacy and blackmail.

This story was originally published by the Shawnee Mission Post.

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