City Hall e-mails show staff scoffing at commissioners' requests

SANDUSKY "Diamonds are forever. E-mail comes close." That's what the Wall S
May 24, 2010



"Diamonds are forever. E-mail comes close."

That's what the Wall Street Journal's Jane Kronholz once wrote to warn government employees about what they put in e-mail.

Apparently, Sandusky city officials didn't read that article.

In the past six weeks, thousands of city government e-mails have been made public as part of a records request related to the Marina District.

And for critics of the administration, the e-mails have only strengthened their belief that city government is corrupt, inept and divided.

"The level of deceit is disgusting," city commissioner candidate Diedre Cole said at the Register's candidates forum last week, referring to the e-mails. "I simply do not trust any information at this point that I'm hearing coming forth from 222 Meigs Street."

Cole made copies of the e-mails available to residents on a computer disc.

In two of the e-mails, city manager Matt Kline appears to belittle his bosses. In one, Kline refers to city commissioner Dan Kaman as having "little man syndrome."

The exchange starts when Kaman asks Kline and city economic development director Scott Schell about the Keller Building.

"Where does our developer agreement stand?" Kaman asked in an August e-mail. "I have not heard much about it lately."

Kline then responds only to Schell.

"It might be the bourbon talking, but I'm pretty sure (Kaman) wishes nothing but terrible things on you," Kline writes. "It's the little man syndrome."

Says Schell: "Poor guy, so misunderstood. I'm sure he wishes me all the best."

Kaman was disappointed by the e-mails.

"I haven't seen the whole disc," he said. "The ones I've seen are very disturbing and unprofessional."

In another e-mail, Kline appears to discount the legitimacy of an inquiry from city commissioner Julie Farrar.

Farrar asked Kline to get a resume from Marina District developer John Eymann. Kline writes to Eymann asking for the resume, but titles his e-mail, "another ridiculous question."

Resident Sharon Johnson, a fiscal watchdog and frequent critic at city commission meetings, said she has reviewed the e-mails.

"I'm sickened about what I'm reading. I'm concerned about the misplacement of trust by staff," she told city commissioners at a meeting last week. "Breach of trust should be dealt with swiftly and harshly. If you can't trust your staff who can you trust?"

The e-mails also reveal other new information, particularly about the Marina District.

In December 2008, a referendum petition, comprised of more than 1,000 signatures, had been circulated. The people of Sandusky, according to the petition, wanted another vote on the Marina District.

In response to the petition drive, Eymann told city commissioners he would walk away from the project if he had to wait a year for another vote. City commission responded by taking an emergency vote on the developer's agreement, circumventing a referendum.

It appears it was Kline's idea for Eymann to make that threat.

"When the pressure builds, you are going to have to have the guts to say, 'If this goes to another vote, I'm walking away'," Kline told Eymann in a November e-mail, as the petition was being circulated.

Eymann took his advice.

The Marina District ultimately failed, but the city spent at least $33,000 on the project in legal fees after Kline's e-mail. Total legal fees were $130,000, according to city financial documents released earlier this week.