REGISTER VIEWPOINT: 'Professionalism' at city building must start at top

Sandusky city manager Matt Kline said the quality of the city staff must become "more professional" when he told city comm
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

Sandusky city manager Matt Kline said the quality of the city staff must become "more professional" when he told city commissioners he decided to hire an outside consulting firm to fill a newly created part-time management position. The new part-time job comes with a $90,000 part-time salary and the firm, John Hancock & Associates, will oversee the city engineering, economic development and planning departments, Kline said.

The city manager said the current heads of those departments are each talented in their own way, but his decision seems to imply those three managers can't get the job done.

If there are city employees who cannot do the jobs they were hired to do and inadequate to the tasks that need to be addressed, perhaps their continued employment should be questioned. We agree city management could use a solid infusion of "professionalism," but this approach sounds like an expensive Band-Aid to cover up a gaping wound. Does it make sense to lay off some employees, reassign others and bring on another layer of bureaucracy without addressing the performance problems that apparently exist? And, do we understand correctly that we will continue to pay some of the employees that need "more professionalism" at the same rate for having less responsibility?

This city government, with Kline at the helm and ex officio mayor Craig Stahl whispering in his ear, can't quite seem to get the job done across the spectrum of city services, from housing rehabilitation to grass cutting. Being responsible with taxpayer funds is not Kline's and Stahl's strong suit. They dodged and weaved on the city budget, going from a self-assured, "trust us" swagger to panic-in-the-streets, shoot-from-the-hip city layoffs that don't inspire confidence nor reassure us that "professional" management practices are being used.

We fear Kline continues to stumble into mistakes the city cannot afford, and bringing in a management firm at the approximate annual payroll cost for a city manager might be just the latest best evidence of Kline's own inadequacies. City commissioners, unfortunately, have not taken the time or had the courage to conduct a true job performance review, and the only documented record (other than a lawsuit and a yearlong estimated $1 million civil service hearing), is an all but glowing one-page review with no substance, no direction and absent of goals that city commissioners rubber-stamped last year.

So much for responsible government.

Commissioners have a responsibility to take a much closer look at how it makes sense for Kline to pick and choose layoffs without a defined plan, on the one hand, and hire an expensive outside management firm to take on job functions the top manager maybe ought to be doing, on the other.

Figure that out, commissioners, and get back to us voters to explain how that works.