How the city of Clintonville moves forward without a city administrator was the topic of discussion at the Personnel Committee meeting, Tuesday, Sept. 23.
Mayor Judy Magee wasted no time in addressing the committee about current issues with the city.
“We need to get somebody in here to help us out for our day-to-day stuff because everybody’s just overwhelmed with all the work that is being passed on,” Magee said. “Some of it is not being done because of the lack of an administrator.”
Alderwoman Mary Beth Kuester, who is not a member of the Personnel Committee, asked what type of help was needed, whether it was accounting, bookkeeping or secretarial help?
“We may be able to find temporary help to fill in these areas,” Kuester said.
Magee asked Clintonville Clerk/Treasurer what type of help is needed.
“My biggest concern is the budget, we need somebody who has the ability to come in and do the overall budget. [To] look at the numbers all the departments present and know what avenues there are. Knowing what’s best for municipalities. That’s not just an accounting person, that’s somebody with that knowledge,” Johnson said.
Johnson told the committee that she has been working on the administrative budget, giving budget assistance to all departments, attending meetings, working on the Main Street paperwork with the Department of Transportation, working with the city attorney on many legal issues, and human resource assistance for all departments.
“I’m usually with Lisa [Kotter] while she’s working as the main contact for all of our insurance renewals. Right now I’m the main contact. Judy [Magee] is going to get involved in some of these,” Johnson said.
Kuester said she thought the city could easily find someone to help with the city budget.
“You need a municipal knowledge there,” Johnson replied.
Kuester said she has a background in insurance and volunteered to help with the city’s insurance issues. She also encouraged other council members to step forward to help.
Committee member Mark Doornink cautioned against that.
“We need to be careful. There are areas we can’t get into. We set policy, we don’t implement. I appreciate you volunteering but I think it borders on illegal,” Doornink said.
He added, “I hope it’s easy to get someone to help us with the budget because it’s dire.”
That said, Doornink said he didn’t think an accounting firm could just step in and help with city’s budget.
“If we can get an accounting firm in here who has worked with other communities, I think that could solve the problem,” Kuester said.
Johnson said when it comes to health insurance, the mayor can help only to a certain level.
“Lisa and I are the HIPPA people for the city of Clintonville,” Johnson said.
She added that she could see a possible struggle with bringing in an accounting firm because it doesn’t know the city and the budget needs to be completed soon.
The committee eventually unanimously passed a motion to allow Magee and Johnson to look into getting additional help.
Chain of command
The chain of command in the absence of a city administrator was also discussed.
“I have been coming to city hall and spending many hours here in the absence of a city administrator, going through stuff with Peggy [Johnson], Mandy [Kriesel] and the other department heads,” Magee said.
Jeannie Schley, chairwoman of the committee, said she was concerned department managers were going elsewhere for advice on how to run their departments.
Doornink asked her where they are going for advice.
“To the city administrator who no longer works here,” Schley said.
“That’s bad?” Doornink asked.
“I don’t think it’s proper,” Schley said.
Kuester added, “Our concern is, and it’s been brought to my attention as well, that city department heads are continuing to rely on the former city administrator and we were advised that this is no longer legal.”
Doornink asked how it was illegal to talk to a citizen of the city. Kuester said City Attorney April Dunlavy told her it was illegal.
Dunlavy said she didn’t recall telling anyone it was illegal to consult with a citizen.
She added that the liability rests on the department head if they receive bad advice.
“I give credit to our department heads who are incredibly smart and they are seeking resources when they know there is a need in the city. I hope they continue to do so within the scopes of their jobs,” Doornink said.
He then asked Dunlavy if people were prohibited from talking to Kotter as a citizen.
“Expressly, no,” Dunlavy replied.
It was said department heads should seek out the mayor for advice, which opened up the question of who to seek out for advice when the mayor is unavailable.
Doornink said the next in command can’t be an elected official other than the mayor.
Kuester suggested the next in command be the committee dealing with that issue.
“How does that go to a committee? We don’t get around open meeting laws because we’re in an interim situation. These things can not be broken. There is no discussion outside of this room,” Doornink said.
Dunlavy agreed that it’s not an ideal situation to put a committee in that place.
There was an agreement that the next in command had to be a staff member.
“As I told Mary Beth, I have no desire, nor do I feel I have the ability,” Johnson said about the prospect of her being the next in command.
Police Chief Terry Lorge said he and the fire chief fall under the mayor and they make their decisions.
“That’s what you pay us for,” Lorge said. “We make those decisions.”
Lorge recommended an interim city administrator be brought in so the hiring process doesn’t have to be rushed.
“In the meantime we have to operate the best way we can and make those decisions,” he said.
At this point in the discussion, Kuester said the department heads should do the best they can to make their decisions.
“That’s what we’re doing right now,” Doornink said.