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Middletown city manager leaves position, 'mutually' agrees with city council to part ways

Jim Palenick had proposed massive 'Hollywoodland'
Posted at 12:14 PM, Mar 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-14 12:18:35-04

MIDDLETOWN, Ohio — Jim Palenick and the city of Middletown signed a mutual separation agreement Monday morning, less than two years after he was hired as Middletown’s city manager.

Middletown City Council met in executive session Monday morning, voting 5-0 to separate from Palenick, who started in July 2020.

The city agreed to pay Palenick a gross sum of $128,764.67 for six months salary, benefits and accrued time off, according to the separation agreement that he and Law Director Ben Yoder signed.

Middletown’s Assistant City Manager Susan Cohen has accepted an administrator position with Union Twp. in Clermont County.

Middletown has major economic development plans in the works, including the redevelopment of the Ohio 4 corridor; the transformation of the Towne Mall; and a ballot issue in May to build new fire stations. Palenick has met extensively with leaders in Butler and Warren counties on the Ohio 4 corridor and Towne Mall projects.

The Hollywoodland project that fizzled out was one of the last big projects that Palenick worked on for the city.

Palenick, 62, came to Middletown from Racine, Wisc., where he worked with Hollywoodland developer David Rachie on a waterfront development project that has yet to be built. As the I-Team previously reported, Rachie’s development deal in Racine was similar to the deal he struck on Hollywoodland in that both called for public funds to cover pre-construction expenses.

Critics zeroed in on that clause as a major flaw in the Hollywoodland proposal. And they blamed Palenick for allowing it to be part of the deal.

Now the city is looking for its third city manager in less than three years.

Palenick succeeded former city manager Doug Adkins, who was terminated by Middletown City Council in December 2019.

Palenick earned a bachelor’s degree in public administration and economics from Western Michigan University in 1981, graduating summa cum laude. He also earned a master’s degree in public administration, with honors, in 1987, also from Western Michigan University. He has more than 30 years of experience in different city management and economic development roles.

Fire Chief Paul Lolli, 60, was named interim city manager and he will continue as fire chief. He’s scheduled to retire as fire chief in less than two years, he said. He has served the city for 32 years, including seven years as chief.

Lolli will be paid an additional $1,293.75 every two weeks to serve as interim city manager, according to his contract.

Interim City Manager and Middletown Fire Chief Paul Lolli
Interim City Manager and Middletown Fire Chief Paul Lolli

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