Commission votes down motion to throw out Murman report

SANDUSKY The Murman report stands. It was a close call Monday evening when city commi
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

 

SANDUSKY

The Murman report stands.

It was a close call Monday evening when city commissioners voted on a motion to throw out the report and direct city manager Matt Kline to sit down with police Chief Kim Nuesse to discuss aresolution.

"Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures," commission president Dennis Murray Jr. said in support of the motion.

The vote was split 3-3, and the motion therefore failed. Commissioners Murray, Dave Waddington and Dan Kaman voted in favor of the directive, while commissioners Craig Stahl, Brett Fuqua and Julie Farrar cast the dissenting votes.

Waddington said the city has to move forward, and the inconsistencies in the report need to be addressed.

"The statements contained in the Murman Report should not be overlooked because they are signed," Stahl said.

"In my mind, the personal statements carry an extreme amount of weight," Stahl added. "I believe that if the signatures and statements are correct as written, some type of discipline might be in order."

Stahl also presented a signed letter from Erie County prosecutor Kevin Baxter to the commissioners that addressed a letter Baxter had written to city law director Don Icsman and city manager Matt Kline regarding details within the Murman Report. Baxter said his letter to Icsman and Kline had been taken out of context in the Register and was not meant to be taken as a statement on the entire report.

"Since then, I have sat down with city manager Kline and reviewed those points with him," Baxter wrote. "Based on the limited times that I have spoken with Matt Kline, I have found him to be extremely professional and level headed."

Farrar said all of the people interviewed during the Murman investigation reviewed and signed their statements before the report was made public. She said it didn't matter if a fifth-grader was taking down the statement as long as the person being interviewed signed the statement and affirmed it was accurate.

Fuqua said he had no problem with Waddington's motion, so long as that is what Kline prefers.

"We are a legislative body...," Fuqua said. "If I wanted to be in administration down here, I would have applied for the job."

Murray agreed with Fuqua that the commission was not hired to run the city on a day-to-day basis.

"But we were elected to try and lead this city," Murray added.

Kaman said the lack of documentation in Nuesse's personnel file weighs heavily upon his conscience.

"I will do what's right in my mind and my conscience," Kaman said, adding that he supports both Nuesse and Kline.

Waddington said his copy of the Murman report will go into the recycling bin.

Citizens fire back

Monday night's commission meeting was standing room only, and not everyone in attendance was pleased with what they heard.

The vocal crowd applauded enthusiastically in response to people who stood and spoke in favor of Nuesse.

Sandusky resident Dan Miller said the Murman report, which he believed to be flawed, was sowing discord into the community.

"Are we in Nazi Germany or what?" Miller asked as the audience began to applaud. "It's a frightening prospect to me that this could happen not only in this city, but in this country."

Sue Daugherty, who reminded the commission that she was speaking only as an individual resident, said that she was deeply disturbed by the commission's actions.

Daugherty urged the commission to research the meaning of "objective" and to truly consider if the Murman report met the criteria to be considered as such.

The commission has a responsibility of oversight over the city staff and is in danger of failure by omission, Daugherty added. She offered to help the commissioners seek grants to help them obtain funding for further training for elected officials.

City resident Ralph Gilbert acknowledged the commission's limitations as a legislative body, but reminded them they hired Kline, who came from Mason, Ohio.

"I know the politics down there," Gilbert said. "It's a whole lot different up here."

Gilbert said the elephant in the room is that Nuesse is a woman and an outsider.

"And Sandusky's not open to outsiders," he added.

"Honesty and integrity"

In a letter dated June 3, eleven supervising officers wrote to Kline and the city commissioners to voice their concerns about Nuesse's possible return.

"We are all faced with adversity every day and it is how we proceed from this point forward that will be the true reflection of this unfortunate situation," said the letter.

The supervising officers acknowledged they must respect rank and the respect the person leading their department, but they said they must also act as leaders since Nuesse's decisions affect the entire department as well as the entire community. The officers wrote that they are committed to the community and will support whatever decision is made, but wanted to make their thoughts known.

"Trust is necessary in order for us to persevere in our mission. It is with great sadness that we can no longer trust Chief Nuesse, in her decision making, as she has displayed a lack of honesty about many situations and issues throughout our department," the letter stated.

The letter went on to say, "If she is to remain as our leader, we can no longer expect or demand our officers to be held to a high professional standard, that of complete honesty and integrity, as our chief has fallen short of those values on many instances."

Moving toward a decision

The pre-disciplinary hearing for Nuesse that had been scheduled for noon Monday was postponed at the request of her attorney, K. Ronald Bailey.

"Any time there's been a reasonable request for an extension we've always granted it," Kline said.

Kline expects that at noon today Bailey will deliver a written response to the 12 disciplinary charges against Nuesse.

When making his decision, Kline said he must take into account everything that's been told to him.

"Obviously there's going to be great weight placed on the written response that I receive (from Nuesse and Bailey)," Kline said Monday afternoon, prior to the commission meeting.

When asked how he feels about the situation, Kline said he is stressed.

"This is a decision that I have to make," Kline said.