Fired Sandusky worker asks commissioners to help clear his name

City manager Nicole Ard fired a department head for allegedly deceiving colleagues and showing dishonesty when buying sand from his brother’s company.
Andy Ouriel
Feb 13, 2013

But Scott Miller, a 21-year city employee with a flawless work history, contends Ard axed him for one honest mistake totaling $900.

Now Miller — the former general services superintendent previously supervising streets, parks and recreation — said he might be forced to file a lawsuit against the city to reclaim his job.

“The allegations are not supported by any verifiable facts,” Miller wrote in a letter to city commissioners delivered to them Monday just prior to a commission meeting.

“I never attempted to deceive anyone or act dishonestly or even inappropriately at any time.”

In mid-January Ard called upon police officers to escort Miller from his office. She placed him on administrative leave after learning he purchased sand from his brother’s company, Monroeville-based Miller Farms and Trucking.

See PDFs related to the investigation and Miller's plea for help below.

For more on this story, pick a copy of Wednesday's Register.

 

Comments

pavedparadise

Wrong again WiredMama222---Put your glasses on and read the first paragraph of "Initial Incident".

Miller was promoted in 2008 and no-one caught this? The Finance Director and the City Manager, including Interim City Manager, had to sign in pevious years. Everything points to someone bringing this to Ards attention prior to her preparing to sign the bill.

wiredmama222

You really need to read the ENTIRE thing...not what you want to read but the ENTIRE 14 pages. Yes, two others brought this to her attention. SOOOOOO WHAT? That is their job. What the heck is the difference. That means that EVERYONE down at city hall is doing their job. GEEZE, you guys are getting desperate or what?

DGMutley

pavedparadise,
The SPD investigation reveals through an audit trail that Miller Farms is an approved vendor that the city has been purchasing from since 2001. Scott Miller didn't violate anything. She's firing him because he became unglued after their initial meeting regarding this sand purchase.

In my opinion Ms. Ard is clearly wrong.

pavedparadise

@DGMutley

Sorry for not being clear. I agree with you. As you state, the City has been purchasing from Miller Farms for years and suddenly this is an issue?
Smells fishy.

Darkhorse

I can't help think there has been a whistleblower in on this whole thing. Some of the employees if not all of them knew about the vendor's relationship but no one stepped forward to say anything and it went on for years? Scott even admitted to Straub there was a conflict and Straub never reported any of this? As for Icsman, he always claims he is unaware of things and he was city manager at the time. Where is the Finance Director in all this?

Centauri

"I can't help think there has been a whistleblower in on this whole thing."

Really Darkhorse? Do you know what happens to whistle blowers in corrupt Erie County, Ohio? They get killed and their demise is ruled a suicide. Or of the more intense whistle blowers (Google Elsebeth Baumgartner), they get thrown into prison.

What do you want to know about whistle blowers in corrupt Ohio or in other states, Darkhorse? I can provide a lot of information. I have been there and done that.

Truth or Fiction

SamAdams-
Did Mr. Miller work for the City Manager or for the City Commission?

lifetimeresident

I drove down by the lake today. Its still not on fire. So Cleveland is still ahead of us.

luvblues2

lmao...(silently, so as not to wake the dog and cat)

DGMutley

According to the SPD investigation the prices for mason sand were quoted in Jan 2013 to be $33.85/ton delivered from Youngs, $28.19/ton delivered from Huron Cement, and $20.75/ton delivered from Millers.

So, question: Where did the City of Sandusky buy their mason sand this year?

DGMutley

I'm trying to wade through Ms. Ard's pdf on Scott Miller's termination. Mercy. It isn't surprising that Ms. Ard hasn't had time to do a year-end self evaluation--how many 40 hour weeks has she spent on Scott Miller's termination. It does almost sound like a vendetta, doesn't it?

wiredmama222

No, it sounds like a culmination of a very long and intense investigation into a man who did a lot of falsification of records, changing of bids and having others sign documents for him. I really believe this guy got caught with his fingers in the cookie jar and he just tried to pull a fast on on her. She is his boss and he didn't respect that.

DGMutley

Caught in the cookie jar doing what? Saving Sandusky money? Miller Farms, by far, had the lowest price for sand.

Julie R.

Isn't this sort of similar ~ albeit a lesser degree ~ to what went on in Cuyahoga County? As for Ard --- I'm sure she consulted the law director before the firing, so if this was a vendetta why is she getting all the blame for it?

wiredmama222

Julie, this is what happens when some people want to get rid of you. They want her out and no matter what she does: good or bad, she is getting crucified for it. She is right about this and they will make her the bad guy no matter what. Just like the third floor people. Get it???? LOL

He did wrong, but she will suffer the slings and arrows for it. Just another day in the life of lets get rid of Nicole Ard.

T. A. Schwanger

Indeed there are several unanswered guestions and discrepancies in the documents.

Here's a couple:

Cell phone usage--do cell phone bills and indications of over-usage come directly to the employee assigned to the particular phone or does the Finance Department monitor individual usage? If it's the latter, and Miller was not billed or notified, how can he be penalized? In addition, it appears the cell phone issue was added to the charge after the initial meeting between Mr. Miller, the City Manager and City Manager--hence trumped up charges.

Handing price quotes to Finance Department instead of City Manager---Maybe I'm missing something, but I don't see where the City Manager specified Miller hand the "price quotes" to her so human nature would be to hand the new documents to the person holding the original bill in this case the Finance Department.

In the employment world we have two words for this senario--- nit picking and a witch hunt.

If you feel strongly about your innocence, don't rely on majority support from the City Commission Mr. Miller. Get a good Attorney

wiredmama222

Mr Schwanger, If you read the letter, you will find that he was INSTRUCTED to bring that information to Ms Ard. He chose not to. When you fragrantly disrespect your boss, expect to get nailed for it. Secondly, he had a cell phone that belonged to the City of Sandusky. Nit picking or not, that is my tax dollars he is spending. I would like to see them repaid as he is no longer an employee of this city.

His dismissal is not an error by any stretch of the imagination. Having been a "boss" had ANY of my employees EVER falsified a document of any kind, it would only take once and they would have been gone. Granted, it was in the medical field, but falsification is like "cheating", and as dishonest as it comes. You simply do not do it. In 38 years of work, never ONCE did I do any sort of falsification of any document that went through my hands.

Now I realize that his work isn't life or death, but he has a fiduciary responsibility to the citizens of this city. When you breach that duty, you should realize that you have made a fatal mistake. Obviously he knew it, or he would not have gone to such great lenghts to hide it.

I feel Ms Ard made the right call. He obviously knew he was wrong. If it was wrong once, how many other things has he done. Its like lying. If someone lies ONCE, how many other lies have they told. You and I both know that if someone lies to you, you will always wonder if they are telling you the truth this time?

So it is best if he goes. Doctoring bids, changing forms and making sure his brother got that deal, when city companies were lower bidders really makes me mad.

As a citizen of Sandusky, I really do not appreciate his attitude, his lying or his doctoring of paperwork. I just wonder what else he has been doing in 21 years?

I am not unhappy that Ms Ard saw fit to fire him after this was brought to her attention. It proves that the people down there at City Hall are working together. Good job.

pavedparadise

I have to think if Mr. Miller was covered under the Union contract he could easily get out of this issue based on no previous incidents plus the City Manager adding items beyond the original disciplinary meeting.

DGMutley

wiredmamma222,
You keep ignoring that Miller Farms had the lowest price for sand. Why?

T. A. Schwanger

@wired.

I'm still missing where the City Manager specifically asked Miller to provide the quotes directly to her. Can you highlight and copy her dialog to this post?

Also, the point regarding the cell pone usage is that issue was not part of the original meeting charge and was added after the fact. Your experience in management should tell you adding items non-relevent to the original charge could be challenged as trumped up.

BW1's picture
BW1

It's pretty clear that wiredmama is head over heels for Ard, who she has said should have the powers of a dictator.

Trustafarian

Sounds like Mr Miller could use the help of the NAACP to help him in his fight these charges. I bet they would agree that there is a racial motivation to his firing. (Sarcasm)

Darkhorse

My guess is that Miller already signed away his right to sue when the city stated they would not bring any criminal charges against him. Mr Schwanger did make a point on the phone billing. Usually the billing is checked every month and then back bill the employee for anything over and above. A warning should have been given to him at the time of billing about his usage and the consequences if he exceeded the limit again. The billing should have been brought to the attention of Miller's supervisor which was Ard. At one time, maintenance used to be under Engineering but somehow got switched over to the City Manager.

fanatic's picture
fanatic

Mr. Schwanger, you need to look at the big picture here. Again, in the history of some very fine former employees that got the axe at City Hall, once that can of worms is open, it doesn't matter how good or honest the employee is, there are no second chances. Apologies and begging will not work. This has been going on for years and will continue until there is truly some structured management in our city government. Who is really in charge of the employees and who do they report to? Figure that one out.

T. A. Schwanger

Agreed

OSUBuckeye59

I've read and re-read the investigative report, and my now revised opinion, again, just my opinion, is Mr. Miller knew full well he was violating policy and being unethical in his actions, but was smart enough to answer questions with "I don't know" or that he had Arthur Straub sign on the forms in order for Mr. Miller to avoid the appearance of conflict of interest. In my company, we have a yearly ethics web-based course we are required to complete. Every year. And the ethics issue of giving business to a family member or close associate is well covered in the course, so if I would have done what Mr. Miller did I would have been subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination.

Given all this, and even with Mr. Miller being "a 21-year city employee with a flawless work history", despite that flawless history, in my company Mr. Miller would most likely have been terminated.

This may be a stupid question, but . . . does the city of Sandusky provide ethics training classes to their employees?

Mr. Miller has been successfully steering work to his brother's company for quite some time, and the success reinforcement was only strengthened each and every time he was able to do so, thereby further emboldening him to continue in this ethical violation. As a superintendent, he should have been well aware of the written policy concerning providing work to family members. Even though he didn't admit in any of his answers in the written investigation he knowingly and willingly violated policy, I wonder how he would have answered had the investigator simply asked, "Mr. Miller, are you aware of and knowledgeable about the documented policy regarding awarding work to family members? If you are aware and knowledgeable, do you admit to knowingly and willingly violating that policy?" Tougher, more direct questions should have been asked. But they weren't, and this allowed Mr. Miller to not directly implicate himself.

DGMutley

Ms. Ard is the purchasing agent for the city. If the supervisors and employees aren't following a correct procedure in submitting purchase orders or requisitions for supplies it is not their fault, it's her fault. There is no policy. Apparently there still is no policy. She doesn't even have a list of approved vendors--why?

The reason Scott Miller appears in a bad light is because she winged it in their first meeting about this sand purchase so he winged it.

The argument that "we never purchase from family" doesn't make sense if the price is considerably less than other vendors.

DGMutley

By Charter Ms. Ard is the purchasing agent for everything purchased for the City of Sandusky. As Sandusky's purchasing agent she has a duty to purchase supplies at best prices.

In January Ms. Ard put Scott Miller on administrative leave and began a SPD investigation into whether he was in violation of S 43 of the Charter which states, "No member of the City Commission, the City Manager or any other officer or employee of the City, shall directly or indirectly be interested in any contract, job, work, or service with or for the City; nor in the profits or emoluments thereof, nor in the expenditure of any money on the part of the City other than his or her fixed compensation; and any contract with the City in which any such officer or employee is, or becomes, interested may, at the discretion of the City Commission, be declared void."

The SPD investigation did not find Scott Miller in violation of S 43. It did find that Miller Farms was the lowest bidder for sand. It did find, through an audit trail, that Miller Farms was an approved vendor from whom the city has been purchasing since 2001.

Even though there was no violation of S 43, Ms. Ard has decided to terminate Scott Miller because of his conduct after their initial meeting regarding his purchase order for sand from his brother's company, Miller Farms.

In my opinion Ms. Ard is directly responsible for Scott Millers' so called bad behavior and actions after their initial meeting. Scott Miller became unglued, what did she expect? Just reading through her termination letter causes the reader to become unglued. What is this, "Management through intimidation."?

Darkhorse

Mr. Miller needs to move on. No attorney is going to take his case. Miller has already admitted wrong doing. Some people may have it in for Ard, but she did the right thing. Ard needs to depend on the people employed under her management. She is only as good as the people that serve under her. Ard cannot be babysitting department heads who get paid big bucks to manage their departments. Lets face it, she doesn't have time to be looking over her shoulder. It is crucial that management have the best team that can be trusted to do the job correctly and can be trusted to follow through, anything less then that reflects on her management.

Julie R.

I'm not saying this guy did not deserve to be fired but when you look at the whole picture it's disgusting. He gets fired over $900.00 ....... yet a county public official got away without paying $200K in back taxes. Add on all the rest of the dishonest and illegal crap that goes on at that corrupt Erie County courthouse that they have been getting away with for YEARS ...... those jokes must be laughing at this latest one.

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