Contention at city council meeting over city administrator evaluations
At the Monday, Oct. 17, Red Oak city council meeting, things got a little heated when discussing an employee evaluation form for the city administrator. Red Oak city council members Tim Fridolph and Pete Wemhoff have been working on a new employee evaluation form for the past couple months.
The two first worked independently on a form and then on a combined form. While the two of them agreed on several aspects, there were a few discrepancies.
Fridolph said he contacted Lisa Mart, human resource and management adviser for the Iowa Municipalities Compensation Association and sent her his form to look over. He said Mart informed him he was “on the right track.”
“I approach this as something that has not been consistent in the past. I just feel we need to do better than before, and it’s not just about any current position.” Fridolph said. “I feel it is important to have certain things in place now and for the future.”
Another area where Wemhoff and Fridolph disagreed was on having department heads conduct annual evaluations on the city administrator. Fridolph said he was told by Mart it is not out of the ordinary for that to happen.
When councilmember Brian Bills asked Wemhoff why he feels department heads should not fill out an evaluation form, Wemhoff replied, “I just feel a lot of department heads feel like they are getting evaluated every day or they are going to Brad anyhow already and telling him how they feel, and you don’t need to fill out a piece of paper to say that or to do that. They have a job to do besides fill out a form.”
Wemhoff added that department heads should additionally be given an option on whether or not to fill out the evaluation.
Fridolph said he feels getting feedback from department heads is important and added if the annual forms are confidential; there will be more honest answers.
Fridolph and Wemhoff also differ in opinion about Mayor Shawnna Silvius’ role and her being able to conduct a evaluation on the city administrator.
Fridolph said he reached out to Mickey Shields, Director of Member Services for the Iowa League of Cities who said, “While each city has the full power to determine things like this, I would say all cities I've worked with include the mayor in the evaluation of the city administrator/manager. The mayor is obviously an elected official, and while they cannot vote (in most cities, since most of our members utilize the Mayor-Council form of government) they still directly represent the citizens along with the council members. I understand the view that the council is the body that approves the hiring (or termination) of a city administrator, but the mayor also plays a key role as an elected official.
I would also look at this type of situation from the opposite view - why would a mayor not be included in the evaluation of a key city staff position? In my experience, it would be awfully hard to explain why an elected representative of the community does not take part in such discussions/evaluations of the city government's top staff.”
Mayor Silvius then passed out a copy of the city ordinance defining her role as mayor to each council member, as well as City Clerk Mary Bolton and City Administrator Brad Wright. She also handed out a chain of command work chart.
“As we continue these conversations on how people work together, we need to follow our ordinances and [think about] why people are elected to positions,” Silvius said.
Fridolph wanted the council to be aware of the impasse he and Wemhoff are in with their different views. He urged his fellow council members to reach out to other communities to see what they do when it comes to evaluating the city administrator.
Lastly, Fridolph informed the council that current city administrator Brad Wright was given a copy of his and Wemhoff’s evaluations to look over and give feedback on. Wright told Fridolph and Wemhoff he disagreed with the sentence that says he is to “provide administrative support and assistance to the mayor.”
When asked to elaborate, Wright replied, “I’m not sure how far this conversation is going to go in an open meeting, I guess, Tim.”
“I’m not evaluating you, I’m asking a question, that is all I’m doing,” Fridolph said. “You do not feel it is necessary or you didn’t think we should leave on here, that says, ‘provide administrative support and assistance to the mayor,’ and if we left it on there, you’d just get a zero on that. So, I would just like to know why and then again, let the council think about it and decide from there if it needs to be included.”
“I’m pretty sure we just branched over into a personnel matter,” said Wright.
“I just asked a question about content on the evaluation form,” said Fridolph. “This is content on a form that there is feeling should not be included.”
This issue will be discussed further and voted upon at the Monday, Nov. 7 meeting.