A new county manager took his seat just minutes after county commissioners unanimously approved a contract.

Former State Director of Administration Patrick Cates signed his contract at the meeting Thursday, March 7, after affirming he could take the position immediately and had passed a background check.

Commissioners approved a $201,510 a year contract which expires June 30, 2024.

"We have a mess in Douglas County, and I wouldn't take this job on for this amount of money," said Commissioner Dave Nelson. "I believe the pay scale is correct."

Genoa resident Jim Hartman welcomed Cates' appointment as county manager.

"I'll note that our nine-month search for a county manager appears to be over," he said. "I think you've got a good choice. He appreciates the history of this county and this state. I think you have a winner here."

Hartman urged Cates to read the 99-page state investigation, and the grand jury reports from last year and 1989.

"I hope when you meet with the staff that you make clear that there will be no tolerance of embezzlement and self-dealing in this county."

While questioning the price tag associated with the contract, Foothill resident Jim Slade said he hoped Cates would be successful.

"I hope that he will be worth every penny," Slade said.

Cates' contract will be automatically extended each year, unless he or the county give 90-day notice to terminate. The county's decision to terminate must be by a majority of the board of commissioners.

"We're going to see what starch you're made of, so stand by," Commissioner John Engels said.

Cates will be solely employed by the county, but will be eligible to take occasional teaching, writing or consulting jobs with the approval of the chairman.

The county will be able to terminate the contract at any time with advanced 30 days notice, while Cates can end the contract with 60 days written notice.

Should the county terminate Cates for reasons other than cause, he would receive a lump sum of three months salary, plus any unused annual leave or other benefits.

Termination for cause includes a crime or a willful violation of a law or county policy governing conduct of public officers. If Cates were terminated for cause, he would not be eligible for severance. The same is true if Cates resigns the position before the expiration of his term of employment.