As News 3 first reported Wednesday, multiple sources tell us Kean Register's executive position at Bryan Texas Utilities was eliminated while he was serving as Bryan's interim city manager, leaving him no job to return to when and if he's done at the municipal building.
Now, both sides are responding.
Register has worked at the City of Bryan since 2000 and had been in the utility business for nearly 30 years. He had ascended to a group manager position at BTU.
Twice, the city has asked him to take on the interim city manager role, including his current service in that spot as of 19 months ago.
"I certainly don't mind lending a hand to the city," Register said in September 2010. "Plus, I learn a lot when I go over there, but I have no plans, at 48 years old, to change my career path."
But News 3 has been told that months ago, BTU eliminated Register's job there and chose not to reassign him, a decision reportedly made by BTU General Manager Dan Wilkerson.
While Register declined an on-camera interview, he released this statement Thursday morning:
"I continue to be busy with issues at the City of Bryan; I really don't spend much time on BTU matters. I was aware that my position was eliminated but I still hope that I'd be able to go back at some point, hopefully in the General Manager position. I've told council I'm happy here until that opportunity presents itself."
For the last few years there have been on again, off again rumors that Wilkerson would retire.
We tried to reach Wilkerson over the phone, and when News 3 approached him at the Better Business Bureau Torch Awards Thursday afternoon, he declined to talk.
Then, about three hours later, BTU released a statement from Wilkerson:
"BTU has not done a layoff of any managers, and certainly not Kean Register. He has done an excellent job at BTU . BTU realigns positions from time to time in response to changing conditions, such as metering, technology, and personnel in the organization, and we support Mr. Register in opportunities as they may arise in the future."
A human resources person we spoke with said the elimination of a job position with no reassignment is a "layoff." Merriam-Webster describes "layoff" as "a period of inactivity or idleness" and "the act of laying off an employee or a workforce." MacMillan Dictionary defines it as "to end someone’s employment, especially temporarily, because there is not enough work for them."
One BTU board member told News 3 that he anticipated Register would return to BTU despite his group manager position's elimination, and that the popular theory was that he would apply for the general manager spot once Wilkerson retired. The board member also said there had been discussions of creating a chief operating officer position within BTU.
Bryan Mayor Jason Bienski told News 3 Wednesday night that the council was happy with the job Register was doing and that he could hold the job as long as he'd like. There is no active search for a permanent city manager.
The power provider made layoff headlines in December. After saying they wouldn't lay off meter readers with the city-wide installation of smart meters, they told those employees that they were out of jobs, citing "a need to restructure departments and positions where possible." The employees were given the option to apply for work with a new contractor for the city's water department.
Wednesday night, News 3 asked BTU for comment specifically on Register's layoff, but their statement did not specifically address the matter. It reads:
"With the changes in customer service and the installation of smart meters, we have done some reorganizing to serve our customers more efficiently."