Updated: Sandusky's top officials skip finance meeting

City manager Nicole Ard, ex officio mayor John Hamilton among those missing important session without giving notice.
Andy Ouriel
Jun 21, 2013


Updated (9:30 p.m. Monday) : City manager Nicole Ard admitted to not attending a finance committee meeting during Monday's city commission meeting. She then said a clause in her contract stipulates she doesn't have to attend these meetings.

Ard is a voting member of the committee and is required to attend, finance committee chairman Allen Nickles said.

"Show me in your contract where it says that," Nickles said. "I'm speechless. Her response is an embarrassment and a slap in the face to the committee."

Pick up Tuesday's Register or subscribe to the e-Paper here, to read more about the dispute.

Original story (3 p.m. Friday) : Two high-ranking Sandusky officials skipped a vital financial meeting without reason.

City manager Nicole Ard and ex officio mayor John Hamilton failed to attend a Friday morning finance committee session.

Committee members, comprised of several certified public accountants, reviews fiscal challenges and offers suggestions as to how officials should set a budget.

The committee, which includes Ard and Hamilton, meets six times a year.

Friday's meeting proved important because members reviewed an audit, detailing Sandusky's recent revenues and expenses.

"I have no clue why they weren't there," committee chairman Allen Nickles said. "As a common courtesy, if they were going to be on vacation or not be here, they should have at least RSVP'd to say they weren't available."

Hamilton, by phone, said he attended a Boy Scouts camp in Birmingham and Wakeman.

"I should have given them more of a heads up," said Hamilton about his absence.

Ard — the highest paid city official at about $126,000 a year didn't return a message left on her cell phone.

It's common her calls go unanswered. She generally doesn't return phone calls from reporters or respond to email or in-person inquiries. If she does reply, her responses are some times off-topic or nonsensical.

Earlier this year, Nickles questioned a $16 million everyday city operating budget finalized by Ard.

Nickles said the income projections Ard used are too optimistic 

The city's primarily income streams — a 1 percent city income tax and 3 percent admissions tax — generate the majority of funds for Sandusky's government.

But bad weather this summer — there's already been several dreary, overcast days in May and June — could result in revenues falling well below Ard's projections, Nickles said.

"If they don't meet the budget, what are they going to do? Nickles said.

Earlier this year, Ard provided commissioners a list of potential cuts that included eliminating up to 27 city jobs, or about 10 percent of the city's workforce — including police officers and firefighters — and slashing $2.2 million in expenses through 2014.

She has not made any recommendations or suggestions to officials, however, as to a course of action or how the cuts could be implemented.



Well Mr mayor it seems the boy scouts take precedence over your duties as running the city.. We see what's more important to you. If you are unable to do the job you were elected to please step down otherwise do your job....


I put my family before my job...

Colonel Angus

I've got no problem with that. However, if you ran for city comissioner I could not vote for you.


It was about the Mayor. He actually said he wasn't going to be there. Ard, however, is a disgrace and I find it sad that she is running Sandusky. How'd she get that job again?

dorothy gale

More importantly, WHY is she STILL HERE?!


I dont like to agree with you usually Sandusky2012, but on this you are right on.....


Is this the SR creating a controversy as retribution?

What was so "vital" about the meeting? That Andy Ouriel was there and Ard was not? What critical decisions made? Sounds like they saw a power point. Nothing in the article indicates that her presence was anything more than perfunctory and pro forma.

An article like this reads like payback for Ard's not giving comment on the SR's schedule. It seems to be a common tactic, if the offical doesn't respond then the SR writes a misleadingly controversial, attention grabbing headline and an empty article. Remember the series on how Gunner didn't respond to a reporter's emails?

I can't speak to Ard's performance, but I'd like to read these nonsensical emails the SR has.

If I were a city official I wouldn't be in much of a hurry to respond to the SR either, and I kind of respect any official who tells them to shove it by not responding to them.


Who said it was vital??? It WAS however, mandatory and she doesn't show up and doesn't say why??? Try doing tht at your job...see what happens. How many "pointless" meetings have you had to sit through but you did, cuz you HAD to... That's the point she's spitting in the face of everyone, almost daring them to do something. But keep on paying her $127K a year another horrible choice by that commission

Raoul Duke

Too many dummies.

The General

Jimmmbooooo, are you avoiding me baby cakes?


You would think Hamilton could have sent a back up commissioner on such an important meeting especially with auditors giving their report. As for Ard, she doesn't have to answer to the newspaper only to 4 commissioners. It is not like the committee meets every month like they use to meet.It is embarrassing not to have the city manager show up on something so important.


wow, nice commentary on the City Manager, looks like taxpayers are totally getting their $126,000/yr money's worth...she didn't meet any of her goals, she doesn't talk to anyone, she doesn't think the finances of the city are the most important part of her job...I will take this job for $110,000 and return my phone calls


If its a bidding thing, I will take the job for $105,000 i can not return calls and not goto meetings and spend hardworking taxpayers money on crap, but let everything else go to hell i.e. streets and crime, then get rid of police and firefighters......bravo Nicole because you KNOW that given the "circumstances" if the commission ever voted to remove you, we BOTH know you would say its because youre a woman, a BLACK woman at that, your job is very safe!


I'll take it for $55,000.


55k really? damn...well, if I can keep my current job and then just not do anything at all...which seems to be the case here, I suppose I'm good for 54k

dorothy gale

Heck, I'd do it for 50 grand!

dire wolf

It almost seems as if Ard is in over her head. Common sense says that anyone who does their homework and is prepared for their business will show up and get the job done. Hamilton should also be relieved of his duties asap. If his boy scout meetings are more important, and he doesn't show enough respect to the people who pay him his salary to give proper notice, why is he still on the payroll? Add these two to the long list of mistakes made by the city. The fact that they blew off this important meeting now has me believing they were both afraid to show up. This city deserves better.


Well why should she show up? She's not going to anything but suggest how to spend more taxpayers money....but try not showing up to a mandatory meeting at your job....what would happen??


I have to say I commend the SR for reporting this....she should have to answer to taxpayers about this


I don't know how Ard got this job but it's becoming very apparent that she's not doing it very well. I'd say it's time for a replacement.



SR watcher

And we thought Rick Finn was bad. At least he showed up to meetings and answered questions. Might not have liked what he had to say all the time, but at least he attended meetings, spoke to the press, and tried to earn what the City was paying him.


Things are not good at city hall when Ard avoids the newspaper reporter. That is one big fat red flag. No one can get any information out of her.


I admit that I am from out of town, but I do business in Sandusky. I really don't understand your form of city gov't, either. Why is this woman getting paid so much when all the things she does or doesn't do is in a locked vault somewhere that the public can't see or even talk to her?

She's the City Manager and what else?


Ah yes, the ole cut safety services routine....you gotta love it. Good idea Ms Ard...good idea. Here's a better if not great idea. HIRE SAFETY SERVICE PERSONNEL! Make this city safe so people will want to live here, companies will want to locate here, pay taxes here and up goes to standard of living. Play SIM CITY. It'll teach the officials how to run a government...


Town Clowns - all of them.

Your city government is so messed up.


Ard....she wasn't from here anyway - was she?


Kim Nuesse for Mayor, City Manager and Police Chief!

I think she's the only one Westerhold would be happy with.


well they cannot fire her because if they do she has a nice severance package....... who's laughing all the way to the bank?


WHAT does her job entail? Is she just a figurehead?

She may as well be the Queen of England for all I can tell. The Queen and her family get BIG $$$$$ from the Brits for doing absolutely nothing but being there.


Not QUITE like the Queen of England. Last time I checked, the Queen actually showed up for things!

But you're right: Most of us know what her job is SUPPOSED to be. And most of us are beginning to know that she's not doing much of it.

I hate to say I told you so, but I did. I wouldn't have minded being wrong for the sake of the City, but Ard was NEVER the best candidate. I couldn't even figure out how it was that she made the SHORT list let alone was selected.

I'm among the first to cry foul when the City wastes money, but it might be worth the cost to get a REAL manager back here (and simultaneously enact an ordinance that says the Commission can't harass him or her into quitting the way it did the LAST halfway decent manager we had). In the long run, it'll be a lot cheaper and better for the City than worrying about severance pay!


Moderators have removed this comment because it contained Personal attacks (including: name calling, presumption of guilt or guilt by association, insensitivity, or picking fights).


Moderators have removed this comment because it contained Personal attacks (including: name calling, presumption of guilt or guilt by association, insensitivity, or picking fights).


I do not see any reason for her to attend as what she is paid I would assume that she would know much more about budgets and finances than any common CPA would !!!!!!!!!!!!


Uhm maybe cuz it's her job???


They have a job to run this city and any meeting that has anything to do with this city they should be there...If they are not in it 100% someone else will be.I say give them the AX...

Truth or Fiction

Before passing judgment, I would like to know why she was unable to attend. There could be legitimate reasons for her absence. You will note that the paper has not provided the reason for her absence.

As for comments on the City government, let’s be realistic. The City Financial Officer and the City Solicitor (legal counsel) report to the City Commission, not the City Manager. The Commission wants to run the City (contrary to city manager forms of government) then do so. Let the Commission develop and approve the budget and then tell the City Manager this is how much you have to work with – make it work.


Uhm the Register didnt give a reason, becausr Ard herself did not give a reason, she just didnt show up....how can you defend this? Whether she is a big part of this or not, she was supposed to be there and she didnt show up....the county wants to give her a building to house City Hall, she doesnt call back..she has cost the city thousands and thousands in legal fees....but I think we all need to be realistic about something else, she aint goin NOWHERE!!


If it is the lady I think it is, I'll tell you why she didnt show up. She got smacked up side the head taking the last sausage link at Ryans buffet that morning. After cutting in line. Two adult ladies fighting over food. Nice.


First, commissioners are paid about 100 bucks a week. If Mr. Hamilton had plans to attend scout camp, so be it. If any of you care to run for the commission and be on duty 24/7/365, I'm sure there will be room on the ballot for your name.

Secondly, a while back the Register supposedly misrepresented something Ms. Ard had said or done to the extent she consulted a lawyer. So I don't think it's hard to understand why returning the paper's phone calls is not a high priority.

Sometimes the news articles do seem biased against public officials who don't kiss up to the newspaper. And the tone of some articles borders on an ugly smugness. One commentary about Commissioner Smith's facebook presence seemed to belittle his page for including flags. I for one appreciate a commissioner sharing information directly with the citizenry and I can certainly understand a past Marine's inclusion of his photo in dress uniform along with a flag on his facebook page.

At times the reporting in the Register is very good. And sometimes it leaves a lot to be desired.

dire wolf

so you are saying that they don't make enough money to attend the important meetings? Sounds like a great place to start with the budget cuts. They need to be at those meetings. That's why they get paid what they do. nobody asks them to be on duty 24/7/365. Just go to the important meetings. The most likely reason not to do so, is lack of, or failure of preparation, which should worry the citizens alittle.


"At times the reporting in the Register is very good. And sometimes it leaves a lot to be desired."

When the Register does actual reporting, it can be OK. As good as you will get for a smalltown newspaper.

When they inject their opinions either overtly or discretely into "news" articles, tell one side over and over and over of every story, or go on all-out smear campaigns, is when it becomes really embarrassing.

It's almost as if they were like the kid that was always picked on growing up, and now that they think they have some modicum of power or influence (which actually is pretty small- as I know few, if anyone, that actually respects the Register) they try to exploit it and take advantage of it.


then maybe the person should not run for commissioners


Moderators have removed this comment because it contained Personal information and Libel and defamation.


Did you CALL the police or just post it here?


I feel the main issue here is that it would appear that she didn't notify anyone of her absence. We all understand that when you are going to be absent from work you notify your superiors which in her case would be the commissioners. Maybe she did and maybe she did not, regardless as she has a contract with the city pertaining to her employment, it is a two way street. There are duties and obligations required from her side of the contract.

Tool Box

FIRE HER! We are tired of this crap happening to our city!

Simple Enough II

So how many of you have skipped out of work by claing a "Mental Health day", you know just decided you are not going in? Just saying.

dorothy gale

Yes, but you CALL. Most employers have a no-call/no-show policy which makes it clear that if you do this, you're fired. Emergencies happen, that's life. But you should at least have the decency to call and explain why you won't be at work!

The Bizness

" common her calls go unanswered. She generally doesn't return phone calls from reporters or respond to email or in-person inquiries. If she does reply, her responses are some times off-topic or nonsensical."

while these two probably should have been there you guys are the most unprofessional group of individuals. Do yourselves a favor and stop writing this crap.

Matt Westerhold

Thanks The Bizness. Is there a better way you think might describe this repeated response from city officials to inquiries from the Register and from members of the public? 


Remember people, innocent until proven guilty! Give her a chance to come forward and explain why she was a no show. Maybe there was a family emergency or something bad happened and she had a good reason not to come to the meeting.


I agree. People get sick; people pass away. Water pipes burst; houses catch on fire. BUT YOU CALL! You tell people you can't make it in because...whatever. There are a host of legitimate reasons you'd be unable to make it to a meeting or to work on a given day. SO CALL IT IN! If I was a no-show and a no-call employee, I had better be the one dead myself! My employer wouldn't take it kindly, and I wouldn't blame him.

Well, guess what, Ms. Ard? WE'RE your employer! And if there was a real reason you couldn't be at that meeting, you owed others the simple courtesy of some notice. And if there WASN'T a very, VERY good reason you "couldn't" attend, then maybe YOU should be the one put on notice: Do your job the way it's supposed to be done, or get out of the way for somebody who can.


I agree with Simple.......There are times we just don't feel like going to work for numerous reasons and blow it off!!


Maybe she was busy setting up for Movies at the Bay down at the Paper Dist. Marina


look, part of this woman's job is to talk to the press and be the "face" of the city...that's what the taxpayers pay her for. say what you want about the Register and its reporting for them to interject a commentary into a news story like this indicates to me that this is a habit of the city manager. In addition, her job is to create a budget...a reasonable budget. If the finance committee says there is no money to get things done and she just erases a couple of figures to make the budget balance, and the finance committee says the figures are unrealistic, she's not doing this part of her job, she's just making it up.

While it's easy to accuse government of consistently just making up figures so people don't question them, I think it's good that at least the finance committee appears to be making an attempt to be realistic. However, the ultimate operation is by city charter mandated into the hands of the city manager. So no matter how reasonable the committee attempts to be, they manager can just live in her rainbow world with the unicorns...until the city commissioners fire her...or we fire the city commissioners to elect ones who will fire her...such is the red tape of our society.

Either way, I think the commentary by the Sandusky Register speaks volumes and I wish the paper would pursue this actively rather than posting stories about Port Clinton's police...I mean, they are the "Sandusky" Register.

Not that my two cents matters in the world where someone doesn't have to do their job and gets paid $126,000 do not do it.

dire wolf

well said.



Well said.

Every major project now being worked on (see Ms. Johnson Blog) were started prior to Ard being hired and the new commission being elected. Ard's "newborn" days are over. What is her vision for Sandusky? What major developments is she proposing besides borrowing $3 million for streets?


I agree. I don't care whether Ms. Ard likes the newspaper, its reporters, its publisher, whatever. Part of her job IS to talk with the press and to be the face of the City. If she can't be bothered, then she needs exactly what the rest of us would get when we decline to perform OUR jobs!


There is no excuse for at least calling ahead to let others know of their absence. A phone call or email only takes about a minute. If others expected the two to be at the meeting, then why didn't the two call? During meetings, questions are asked to make clear any financial statements.

dire wolf

The bottom line here is that this city deserves better than what these two are giving. Until this city stands up and says that they will not tolerate this type of leadership, the city will continue to suffer. If either of those two had anything worthwhile to say, they would have made sure they were at the meeting. If they had any leadership skills at all, they would have made sure they had something to say at that meeting. The boy scout excuse is total b.s. Hamilton should be relieved of his duties asap. As for the city manager, she obviously has no clue what to do and is now like a deer in headlights. She felt her best option was to be a no-show, and provide no explanation, whether it be b.s or not. my dog could have done the job just as well as her. This is embarrassing to the city.


Your city manager is only as good as the leadership. If there is no direction, how do you expect her to manage? It is really difficult to manager when there are seven commissioners directing her seven different ways.



What direction? Sandusky reminds me of the old Looney Tune cartoon where the dog was chasing the rabbit saying "Which way did he go George, which way did he go George"


Gubmint employee.


anyone know what the median income is for residents of the city of Sandusky? I would guess that Ms. Ard is making more than twice that amount...even if we take the median income of people who are not unemployed or on welfare, the median is probably less than half of Ms. Ard's salary and those people have to show up to work every day. Just curious how much more than average her salary is compared to how subaverage her job requirements appear to be


Hey Dire Wolf why don't you run for city commission. You seem tgo be the expert. Have you ever missed work? Hope your boss docked your pay if you did.

dire wolf

i can honestly say that in all my years, i've never been a no show, no call for any day of work, let alone an important financial meeting i had. It shows a lack of respect and makes a person look overmatched and foolish. Especially when i was getting paid to be there, and it was why i was hired for the job. Thanks for hoping for my hardship, but fear not, i don't cash checks for jobs i don't show up for.


She didn't call or show up for an important meeting! Your FIRED!


Yeah Right


How do we get rid of these clowns?


I think she wants fired she has a nice severance package


Yep. U r correct, She has a plan and it ain't for Sandusky!


Are Ard's job requirements clearly defined? Success metrics clearly articulated? Was it an expectation or requirement for Ard & Hamilton to be at the meeting?

As a member of the Finance Committee, and given Ard's position of City Manager, my expectation is her attendance at the meeting is mandatory. And who manages Ard? What repercussions, if any, will Ard face for not attending and not forewarning?

Given Ard's position as City Manager, coupled with her salary, I would fully expect she be present and accounted for at the Finance Committee meeting. Not showing and not pre-alerting the Committee Chairman is unacceptable. In the case of Hamilton, he should have requested the Committee move the meeting by a week, if possible, or prepare and have someone attend in his stead. With Ard, this non-attendance and non-forewarning, coupled with her previous "budget scribbled on a piece of paper" incident, is in keeping with a terribly junior level of performance indicating at least to me that Sandusky is overpaying to the tune of $100,000/year too much for its current city manager.