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Jeff Smith replies

Register • Oct 23, 2013 at 7:32 AM

Click here to read the dissenting evaluations from Cole and Poole.

Click the photo at right to read the "consensus" evaluation. 


City commissioner Jeff Smith responded to five questions submitted by the Register on Friday about the recently completed performance evaluation of city manager Nicole Ard.

Smith suggested there had been no dissenting views from any commissioners, but both commissioner Diedre Cole and commissioner Wes Poole submitted evaluations of the city manager's job performance in September. Those evaluations  weren't incorporated in the "consensus" evaluation approved by Smith and commissioners Keith Grohe, Pervis Brown, Julie Farrar and John Hamilton on Thursday.

Get Monday's Register to read more about the dissenting evaluations from Cole and Poole.

The approved "consensus" evaluation (shown at right, click to enlarge) contains fewer than 150 words and states Ard achieved the goals set for her in 2012. It also states she successfully managed personnel decisions, but needed to improve her communication skills.

Ard instructed commissioners to send the evaluation to her private attorney when they presented it to her earlier in the week and refused to discuss it with them at that time, both Cole and Grohe said. The other commissioners approved the "consensus" review two days later and also voted to follow Ard's instructions to send it to her attorney.

Cole voted against both motions. Grohe voted in favor of the review but voted against sending it to her attorney. Poole did not attend the hastily called special meeting, which transpired quickly with little public discussion. 

Here are the questions with Smith's replies. 

Commissioner Julie Farrar also later responded to the email, and her replies are added below:   

Register: How was this consensus reached and how were the dissenting viewpoints incorporated into the consensus evaluation?

Smith: We, as a commission sat down with Nicole, each commissioner had an opportunity to discuss with Nicole her strengths and weaknesses. We all did this, except for Diedre. Diedre did not offer any evaluation; in fact Diedre wanted to “change things up” and offered Nicole an opportunity to tell us how she has done as manager.  As for the “dissenting” views that seem to be your focus of Nicole, the only “dissenting” views seem to be originating from your newspaper.  When given the opportunity during this evaluation, neither, Wesley or Diedre offered anything.

Farrar: Keith took notes of what we all said and or collected any documentation we submitted to him. I am sure Keith read over his notes and the provided documentation and used that in writing the final evaluation. As far as dissenting viewpoints. Mr. Poole made a remark about communication as an issue and Mrs. Cole asked Ms. Ard to explain how she (Ms. Ard) thought she was performing. After Ms. Ard spoke about her work performance I don't recall much if any dissenting remarks from any commissioner. Now that was the first evaluation mtg. with Ms. Ard.


Register: Please provide an exact description or outline of the process that was adopted after the original evaluation plan involving the consulting firm hired by the city was discarded. If there is a written guideline that was used, please provide that document or documents. 

Smith: Discarded? After discussing this “evaluation plan” first with the current commissioners that were present during the hiring, the law director and the Novak group that helped find Nicole, it was never intended for the consulting firm to do her evaluation.  As I have stated in the past, feel free to contact our law director and/or the Novak group to clarify this.  I evaluated Nicole the same way I evaluated the other charter officers.

Farrar: The outline used was the same as all the other charter officers. It was the evaluation form that was created by Commissioner Nuesse while she served the city. A 2 page form that addresses Goals & Objectives, Work Performance, Communication & Relationships. I did not discard the Novak evaluation completely. I had Novak's 12 goals in front of me along with the City's Evaluation form. I verbally reported during the mtg. my concerns/comments using those two documents as my guide. I didn't write anything down therefore I had nothing to turn in. You already have a copy of Novak's 12 goals and a copy of the city evaluation form. As I went down the list of 12 goals I saw several goals that were met. Ms. Ard settled the union contracts, hired a police chief and engineer, made an agreement to sell more water, has continued work on our Land Bank Program and made cuts were possible to meet our financial constraints.


Register: Did you read the evaluations submitted by Cole and Poole and could you respond, specifically, to the criticisms raised by them that are in direct contradiction to the information provided in the consensus review?

Smith: I evaluated Nicole based on my experiences and observations, not theirs. While evaluating Nicole, Diedre had nothing, neither written nor verbal. Diedre may have written something after the evaluation, but as I’ve stated before, I evaluated based on my professional experience with Nicole.

Farrar: No, I didn't read anything Mrs. Cole or Mr. Poole wrote due to not being supplied with a copy of either. I heard they wrote something but it was never distributed to me. Wes may have given Mr. Grohe a copy though. During the second mtg. with Ms. Ard;  Mrs. Cole didn't say anything negative or positive in that mtg. Mrs. Cole was almost silent during that second evaluation mtg. Which I thought was odd.  Now there is her written evaluation you ask me about. Why didn't Dee give all of us a copy of this written report you ask about? I can't read it if I don't receive it. Mrs. Cole didn't even provide this report of hers yesterday during Ex. session.


Register: Given the city manager instructed commissioners to send the review to her private attorney, did you seek advice from the law director or any other legal counsel in the course of this evaluation process, and when did you seek that advice? Why or why not?

Smith: We, as a group of commissioners had a piece in creating her evaluation, we voted on it and it passed.  As, I’m sure you were aware,  Diedre Cole voted against the final evaluation, but like I stated before, she had no input, either positive or negative and Mr. Poole was absent for the vote. Nicole made a request that, through the law director, we forward this evaluation on to her attorney.  I have no problem forwarding her attorney the evaluation.

Farrar: Mr. Icsman did not indicate that it would be a problem.


Register: Has the city manager placed herself in an adversarial position with the city by requiring a vote of commission to involve her private attorney in this process? Why or why not?

Smith: Nicole Ard is employed by the City of Sandusky, and the 7 commissioners are her direct supervisors. It has become a standard practice for Diedre Cole and Wesley Poole to run to the newspaper every time they have a concern with Nicole, instead of acting as responsible bosses. The “adversarial position” has already been created by these 2 commissioners.  Management through media is certainly not a practice I would encourage.

Farrar: No. It is her evaluation.

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