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Update: Score cArd for city manager cites shortcomings

Matt Westerhold • Oct 23, 2013 at 7:37 AM

Update: Sandusky city commissioner Diedre Cole sent the city a finalized version of a performance evaluation for city manager Nicole Ard that suggests Ard has failed to meet expectations across a broad spectrum of job responsibilities.  

Cole said she used a formatted evaluation form incorporating the job goals established when Ard was hired, and also used the charter officer evaluation form the city has used in the past. The evaluation cites numerous issues and includes an action plan for improvement, she said. The review she submitted also includes information from notes she took during a closed-door commission meeting with Ard earlier this month, contrasting her responses to the issues raised. 

Cole also said some fellow commissioners are soft-pedaling Ard's shortcomings and "dumbing down" the review process.    

"Ignoring this is not a good option. The city has serious challenges and tough choices ahead. Commission cannot turn a blind eye to these problems," she said. "Answering phones and taking recreation department reservations is not what the city's CEO and top-paid employee should be doing. What's the hourly rate at $126,000 a year?"  

"It's $61 an hour," Cole said, after quickly tapping a calculator to come up with the number. 

The Register has requested copies of the evaluation prepared by Cole and an earlier evaluation submitted by commissioner Wes Poole, and other reviews and drafts from other commissioners for city charter officers.

Cole also told the Register her mother died on Saturday. She has been commuting back and forth from North Carolina for some time helping her family care for her mother and said the funeral will be this week.   

She also said she intends to be a write-in candidate on the Nov. 5 ballot. Her mother's illness and working to get her family in North Carolina situated caused her to miss the deadline to file a candidate's petition, but can still file as a write-in candidate.

"I want to try a different approach," she said. 


Original Post, Aug. 16, 5:51 a.m. 

Two Sandusky city commissioners submitted performance review evaluations for city manager Nicole Ard that pinpoint what they say are areas in need of improvement. 

But the majority coalition on commission has adopted a wait-and-see approach to letting the public in on the score card for Ard and appear to be ignoring the information submitted.

Commissioner Wesley Poole provided a three-page evaluation form, and commissioner Diedre Cole filed a 23-page draft evaluation. Cole said she is finishing her forms and plans to include the notes she took during the Aug. 12 closed meeting commissioners conducted with Ard for the review. 

Both Poole and Cole used the job goals established by commission when Ard was hired in late 2011 for their evaluations, determining that she failed to meet some of  the goals and calling for an action plan to get back on track.

A Register special report in January based on a public records review and other information determined that none of the goals had been met. Ard declined to respond to questions from the Register while the reporting was being researched before it published and has not offered any response to it since it was published. Some of the goals appear to have been accomplished since that January report, which prompted the current review process by commissioners.

Commissioner Julie Farrar said her experience will guide her through the process. 

"Until the evaluation is totally complete and all parties have signed off on it, it is a work in progress," Farrar said, adding that she didn't take notes during the closed meeting with Ard.

Commissioner Jeff Smith, Farrar, ex officio mayor John Hamilton and commissioner Keith Grohe all discarded the evaluation submitted by Poole, and did not secure it as a public document. Cole's evaluation was filed with an email.

Hamilton told the Register "nobody really wanted" the forms Poole submitted. It's not clear how each commissioner's individual reviews will be incorporated into the final narrative of Ard's review to which Farrar referred, or why the commissioners refused to include Poole's viewpoint in the process. 

Ard has hired an attorney to guide her through the review process with commissioners, Grohe said. She replied to a recent inquiry from the Register about that and other questions but did not answer the questions asked.

"Sandusky is a special community in which to live and work, and I look forward to continuing my work with the Commissioners and on behalf of the residents," Ard wrote in her reply.

Performance reviews by commissioners for law director Don Icsman and finance director Hank Solowiej have been completed. The Register has requested copies of these reviews, drafts and other evaluation forms, documents and public record submitted during the earlier process.  

The city never followed up on the evaluation and review service that was part of the contract with the firm hired in 2011 to set the job goals and assist in the search for a new city manager. It was never explained how that contract provision was lawfully "waived" by commissioners, or why, but Smith suggested the review process currently underway is well-in-hand. 

"This will be my first evaluation of the city manager. However, due to my professional history, I am not a stranger to evaluation process," Smith wrote in an email to the Register.

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