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Reno city manager Doug Thornley resigns


Reno City Manager Doug Thornley submitted his letter of resignation today, Monday, April 8, but said he will remain in his position through the end of the fiscal year, at least through June 30. He was selected as city manager on Aug. 17, 2020, beating out 65 others for the job, and started with the city in October 2020. 

He announced his resignation in an email to all city staff Monday before noon.

“I have made the difficult decision to resign at the end of the fiscal year,” he wrote. “I’ll work with the City Council and leadership team to ensure a smooth transition over the next few months. It’s time for a leader who can focus on economic development, downtown revitalization, and attaining regional fiscal equity in the provision of emergency services for our community.”

No reason was given for his resignation. It comes after receiving positive feedback from five of the city’s six council members and the mayor during his last review in June 2023, his third with the city. He received a $20,000 bonus, a 2.5% cost of living pay increase, a two-year extension to his contract and a potential 12 months of severance.  

He’s also had a tumultuous tenure with the city, serving through the COVID-19 pandemic, business closures, a spike in unsheltered people, an affordable housing crisis and multiple investigations at the city. 

A multi-part investigation into City Hall spending by This Is Reno showed controls for how council members spent discretionary funds were loosely enforced, and spending by council members for travel was not following city rules. 

Thornley signed off on trips by council members and the mayor, who spent taxpayer money in apparent violation of city policies. Some council members spent money on hotels and sightseeing during trips and on days not conducting official city business. The city covered those expenses anyway. 

City officials, including Thornley, refused to answer dozens of questions about the spending. After the series was published, one council member paid back some of the funds he was reimbursed.

Thornley has also been criticized by advocates for those living without shelters, who say that, under his leadership, there’s been a lack of transparency, accountability and humanity from the city. Sweeps of homeless encampments during the pandemic, against the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, were conducted despite limited space at local shelters.

More recently, critics have decried the city’s refusal to discuss plans for the Community Assistance Center, which this week may be considered for sale despite limited public engagement on the issue. 

The relationship between Thornley and Council member Jenny Brekhus has been among the most public issues he has faced during his tenure. Brekhus alleged Thornley was drinking a beer while working in his office, leading to an investigation that resulted in findings that Brekhus created a toxic work environment at city hall through her treatment of staff. 

That treatment of staff resulted in Thornley limiting Brekhus’ access to staff, which she said was retaliation. She took the city to court in a filing late last year over its refusal to hold a hearing to review her complaint. So far, that case has cost the city upwards of $150,000. The case remains pending in district court.

Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve, in a statement shared with media, said Thornley had “left an indelible mark on our community.” 

“Doug’s tenure as City Manager has been marked by remarkable achievements that have left an indelible mark on our community,” she said. “Under his leadership, we have witnessed a transformation in our City’s culture, fostering transparency, efficiency, and inclusivity in all our endeavors.” 

Kristen Hackbarth
Kristen Hackbarth
Kristen Hackbarth is a freelance editor and communications professional with more than 20 years’ experience working in marketing, public relations and communications in northern Nevada. Kristen graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno with a degree in photography and minor in journalism and has a Master of Science in Management and Leadership. She also serves as director of communications for Nevada Cancer Coalition, a statewide nonprofit. Though she now lives in Atlanta, she is a Nevadan for life and uses her three-hour time advantage to get a jump on the morning’s news.




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