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Ard review at crawl

Andy Ouriel • Nov 23, 2013 at 2:10 PM

A sluggish evaluation process, assessing the performance of Sandusky’s top-paid public employee, continues to see delays.

Sandusky commissioners haven’t finalized city manager Nicole Ard’s evaluation yet, a task they should have completed about a year ago, according to Ard’s contract with the city.

The delay centers on her review documents needing signatures from all seven commissioners, city commission clerk Kelly Kresser said.

In mid-October, five of the seven commissioners developed what they called a “consensus” evaluation of Ard. The review — a first for Ard since she arrived in late 2011 — determined she met all 12 goals that had been set for her.

The review contained fewer than 150 words. It made no mention of how she completed these goals, nor was there any documentation to explain the assessment.

The written opinions of commissioners Diedre Cole and Wes Poole — both critical of Ard’s performance — were not included in the evaluation.

The five commissioners who approved the evaluation: Keith Grohe, Jeff Smith, Julie Farrar, Pervis Brown and John Hamilton.

Hamilton, the ex officio mayor whom city voters booted out of office earlier this month, said in September that “nobody” really wanted Poole’s evaluation. Poole submitted his personal evaluation of Ard to commissioners during a private meeting.

Among Ard’s failings, according to Poole:

• She mishandled disciplinary and termination proceedings, costing the city tens of thousands of dollars this year alone.

• She botched the police chief hiring process, which cost $33,000 in taxpayer dollars.

• She intimidates and confuses staff members regarding city business.

• She ignores questions or concerns from community members.

It’s unclear if any of the five commissioners who approved the evaluation even read the dissenting views of Cole and Poole.

Cole contends Ard has put herself in adversarial positions, against the best interests of Sandusky.

“It’s not appropriate for the city manager to demand her bosses talk to her attorney or have to vote to send the review to him,” Cole said. “If she wants her attorney to have a copy, she should just give it to him.”

A provision in Ard’s contract stipulates her salary, about $129,000 a year, could increase based on a favorable performance review. The contract also called for evaluating Ard after working for one full year. The review didn’t occur until several months afterward.

Commissioners, meanwhile, finalized favorable evaluations for two other charter officers: Kresser and law director Don Icsman.

Commissioners are in the process of completing an evaluation of finance director Hank Solowiej.

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