Ard ducks questions

City manager isn't offering explanation for 'no show' at finance meeting
Register
Jun 27, 2013

Sandusky city manager Nicole Ard ducked a finance committee meeting last week and continues to duck questions about the city's tenuous budget and other issues.  

Commissioners Diedre Cole and Wes Poole both raised questions Monday but got little response from Ard before being shot down by the commission majority. 

“I would probably refer you to a closed section in my contract,” Ard said, responding to questions from Cole and Poole about missing the finance meeting. 

Commissioner Pervis Brown upended the discussion during the public meeting Monday but offered additional response Wednesday in an email. He suggested other members of the finance committee were at fault for expressing concerns that Ard missed the finance meeting. 

"If the city commission wants to change the rules for this committee, or any other board or commission, they must be changed at a public meeting," Brown wrote. "Hopefully the members of the Audit/Finance Committee will direct all future inquiries directly to the city commissioners and let us deal with our responsibilities to the citizens."

Ard is a member of the finance committee and presumably fills the role to inform commission, so it's not clear what point Brown is making, or what rules he believes need to be changed. 

Brown offered a similar, disconnected explanation last year when Cole raised concerns about the police chief search Brown led. 

"If you're not comfortable with the process, change the charter," Brown snapped back at Cole during a commission meeting Aug. 13, calling her inquiry about the search "reprehensible." Brown twice blocked the committee from placing then-Sandusky police Lt. John Orzech's name on the short list of recommended candidates and the search process was later determined to have been unlawful. 

Orzech was named chief in April, a year after Brown was appointed to lead the search. The search cost taxpayers about $33,000. 

Cole said she intends to make sure members of the finance committee get the opportunity to fully inform commission on the 2013 budget and funding cuts that are imminent despite whatever rift exists between the committee and Ard. She expressed "irritation" when asked about Ard's tepid response to her questions on Monday. 

"The finance committee members are experts on the city's budget," Cole said. "I'm not an expert and neither is any other member of city commission, or Ms. Ard. The committee members volunteer their professional services and we need to listen to them. Let's do that and move on." 

The finance committee members are: Brent Gardner; Dave Hoffman, CPA; Al Nickles, CPA; Jim Ruthsatz, CPA; Brian Allen; former city commissioner and ex officio mayor Craig Stahl; and ex officio mayor John Hamilton. 

Hamilton also did not attend the finance committee meeting and did not inform the committee he would be absent. Brown serves as Hamilton's alternate to the committee, but he also did not attend or inform committee members. 

Ard has not clarified what she meant by the "closed section" of her contract that she referred to on Monday, and commissioners don't seem to know either. 

"It's a public contract," Cole said. "I don't see anything in it that would stop her from answering simple questions. The city's budget is a top priority for commissioners." 

Commissioner Poole also seems unclear what the majority coalition on commission wants. 

"The (finance) committee has been diligent and effective in their service to the community," Poole responded to Brown's email. "What is your point?"

Ard and other commissioners declined to respond to questions. 

Ard suggested discussions about the budget with the finance committee should be between the committee and the commission and not involve the public. 

"The nature of the questions you ask are for discussion by the Commission or between the Committee and Commission liaison," Ard wrote in response to an inquiry from the Register.

She also repeated that she would provide more information later. 

"As I noted last week, you will have a letter this week," Ard wrote in the email on Wednesday.

 

Comments

Julie R.

Erie County deserves better judges at that courthouse, too .... WAY, WAY, WAY better.

God Of Thunder

Oh boy

richrs

When is her contract up for renewal?

OSUBuckeye59

It appears to be November

LifeIsCrazy

$133,350/year.
Divided by 52 weeks = $2,564.42/week.
Divided by 40 hours = $64.11/hour.

Really? To do what?

Please tell me what she is doing that deserves this amount of money?

I PROMISE you, I could do a MUCH, MUCH better job - and for a fraction of the pay!

OSUBuckeye59

@LifeIsCrazy, if you could indeed do a much, much better job for a fraction of the pay, chances are you'd then be "actively recruited" by another city offering you higher pay, unless you wanted to remain in Sandusky, which would then lead to your compensation being hiked as enticement to retain you as City manager.

I would hope that Ard's compensation was set by comparing compensation of other, similar in size and scope Midwest City manager pay.

dontknowmuch

She strikes me as a real pompous A--. She knows she has two things working in her favor and will use it to her full advantage.

SamAdams

...and I'll bet I know what those two things are!

margaritaville88

Me too!! May I ask why she is still here and why nobody is working on getting rid of her?? I forgot..those 2 things! Ludicrous!!!!!!!!!

SamAdams

Since it's readily apparent that, no matter WHAT she does or doesn't do, the current Commission won't willingly terminate Ard, is there anything that WE can do?

Petitions? Protests? Campaigns? ANYthing? Sure, we could all just spit in frustration and move on to the next agenda item. But would that really make sense in the long run? Between personnel-related lawsuits, budget irresponsibility and incompetence, an adversarial relationship with the media and the public alike, how much more damage could Ard cause before one Commissioner or another finally grows a pair, eh?

rezzy

Sam, I like your style. Take the lead and setup a protest and get the word out. You would be surprised how many would show up. Someone has to take charge, let it be you (seriously).

margaritaville88

Where is her "letter" she promised this week??? HUH..anyone?

OSUBuckeye59

Sam, there is something WE can do . . . per my earlier posting, it can begin by contacting Ms. Ard & the Commissioners by phone, by email and in public meetings, asking the simple questions of what are the success criteria for a City Manager and how do they measure that success. I would believe it 100% appropriate for citizens to know how Ms. Ard is being measured in terms of her success in meeting the requirements and deliverables of the City Manager role.

Should Ms. Ard resign before her current contract ends in November, or should the Commissioners either relieve her of her position or simply wait until her current contract expires, the latter of which currently appears to be a terrible disservice to the citizens of Sandusky, then it's entirely appropriate for the citizens to request a detailed account of the process and timeline Commissioners will use to hire a new City Manager.

Ultimately, whether we are an individual contributor in a large company, the CEO in a company, self-employed, or serving in a role such as City Commissioner, if we're getting compensated for our work, we are all accountable to at least one person if not many.

The toughest part of any journey is sometimes the first step. For too long it appears citizens have simply accepted the action and inaction of City Commissioners. Now is the time to start questioning and holding accountable City officials. But the first step won't be easy, nor will the next few steps. But it must start somewhere and it must start now.

Here are my questions for the City Commissioners: #1) Where are the duties & responsibilities of the City Manager documented? #2) Can the document be made public? #3) How is Ms. Ard's performance being measured to expectations in the document? Please provide specific measurable examples of both successes and areas for improvement. #4) What is Ms. Ard's current measurement performance score? #5) If Ms. Ard is not meeting the performance requirements, what are the repercussions and what are you doing in accordance with those repercussions?

And for Ms. Ard, I'd ask: #1) Do you clearly understand the duties & responsibilities of your position? #2) Please provide a self-assessment of your performance against the afore-mentioned expectations, including providing specific examples of measurable success in meeting these expectations.

Julie R.

I'm not defending Ms. Ard or anything, but what business is it of anybody's if she dines at Berardi's?

Too bad people don't watch over the COUNTY public officials as much as they do the Sandusky city manager.

rezzy

That may be a stab at her physical attributes, not really cool. As for watching officials, I would remind you that she herself makes as much as three and a half commissioners by herself. Definitely watch her behavior, we pay her well.

whocares

How many meetings has Cole missed? Can SR publish that?

Julie R.

Some people want the SR to publish how many meetings Cole has missed. I'm personally waiting for the SR to publish who so far has received a share of the $3 million in unclaimed funds from the Erie County Clerk of Court's office.

007

August 2010, D. Cole was appointed to city commission, she missed 3 meetings the remainder of 2010
- In 2011 D. Cole missed 4 meetings
- in 2012 D. Cole missed 6 meetings

That’s 13 meetings in 2 ½ years that Cole, an elected commissioner missed!!!

Gardenman

She is on her way out of town..........just have not elected the new city commissioners who will end her time in Sandusky. Trust me its coming and she will go the way of so many other city managers in Sandusky. Then we get to go thru the fun and EXPENSE of finding yet another who will be let go down the short road ahead.

Can't these selection committees EVER get a decent person in the job of city manager? We use to have good people in the job but the selection committees spend way too much and way to little capable person to fill the job.

milemarkerzero

Why isn't everybody in the same uproar about Cole missing 13 out of 30 meetings? That is almost 50% of no attendance. Hopefully she is on her way out of town. As for Julie R. Why don't you start your own blog for your problem. or have Matty give you a weekly stint in the paper so you can vent there. So tired of you side stepping every subject to make your point. Your like a broken record.

Julie R.

How is it MY problem for saying that I'm waiting for a list of names to be published as to who so far has received a share of the $3 million unclaimed funds in the former Clerk of Court's account? After all, the Cuyahoga County Clerk of Court's had an audit done and found 23 million in unclaimed funds owed to tens of thousands of people from court cases dating back to 1986. The refunds are for fees and bond payments made on behalf of parties in civil and criminal cases that were left unclaimed, which is identical to the $3 Million in the unclaimed funds account that Barb Johnson got the blame for.

Cuyahoga County also intends to post online the names of the parties in the cases that the refunds are owed to ...... so shouldn't the Erie County Clerk of Court's be doing the same thing?

There you go again

JukieR,
I personally would love to see a blog written by you. I read your insightful comments and look forward to your views. After all, that is what a comment is- your opinion. Now if we could get rid of the ugly, hateful words here we'd be ok. I enjoy opposing opinions, as well. It gives you both sides to a story. Thanks!

Julie R.

Very rarely do I make comments that are just my opinion. The majority of the time they are facts.

Browndog271

BIG DEAL LOL, many others have missed more meetings than Nicole. Why not publish the whole record, instead you focus on hitting one person.

OSUBuckeye59

IMHO, the "Big Deal" isn't Ms. Ard's meeting attendance record, it's her missing the important Finance Committee meeting without pre-warning, then when asked for an explanation, responded with, "“I would probably refer you to a closed section in my contract” and "As I noted last week, you will have a letter this week".

There's a closed section in her contract? Interesting. If there is indeed such a section, what might the language be in it?

As for her letter of explanation, perhaps she's already sent it to the Finance Committee members or the Commissioners. Perhaps not. If sent, it'd be great if the summary explanation was made public. Ms. Ard is a public servant. Her actions are accountable to those she represents and serves, namely all the citizens of Sandusky. And if Ms. Ard has not yet sent the letter, she still has 36 hours to do so.

I'm not talking about conspiracy theory, but I have to believe there is some level of ongoing communication between and with at a minimum, Ms. Ard, Finance Committee members, and Commissioners.

At the end of the day, this really is all about accountability. As I shared in an earlier post, I personally believe whoever is in the City Manager position should have as one of their primary goals to be highly visible in the community and be valued by the citizens of Sandusky. If Ms. Ard was only paid $33,000/year, some might be willing to say, "Well, I guess we're only getting what we paid for." But at a salary of over $133,000/year, there are much higher expectations, and right now, I personally state Ms. Ard isn't meeting the expectations of the Sandusky City Manager role.

gene44870

Ard suggested discussions about the budget with the finance committee should be between the committee and the commission and not involve the public
Now this is so wrong , The public has a right to know what is going on with the budget , the Tax payers are the one paying the bills , not the people that represent the city , they are suppose to be our voice and do what is in the citys[Tax payers] intrest .
We are the bosses of this city , cause we are the ones that pay to keep the city up and running and I feel that the city should stop this debate . I mean comeon am I missing something here ?I was under the impression that the budet was taken care of and al ready voted on by the comission . so why rehash what is all ready done?
It just goes to show me that none of you down there {the city} have a clue as to what you are doing .You vote on things and then pass them and then turn around and ask questions about it later . This is a waste of tax dollars to keep rehashing .

OSUBuckeye59

In the private sector, my experience is the budget process is not a yearly one-time event. With my current employer, our group's yearly budget is indeed approved late in the year, but funding is doled out in 6-month increments, tracked quarterly, and a mid-year review is held where all groups have the opportunity to "appeal" for additional funding. I literally just got finished going through the mid-year review process with my Finance rep. (And, I might add, a 5-week process that's almost as exasperating as the yearly budget process.)

I found March 2012 Sandusky meeting notes detailing the budget process: 1st draft of a budget for the following year is made available by November 1st of the current year. The finance committee projects the revenue for the coming year and the budget is prepared by the City Manager, with each Department Head setting the budget for their individual department & then reviewing with the City Manager. Per Ohio Revised Code, the City Commission can approve a budget no earlier than the second Monday of January and no later than April 1st. The budget must be posted in the newspaper five days prior to a public hearing on the budget, after which the City Commission then approves the budget. Post budget approval, the Finance Committee then conducts monthly budget monitoring.

Why would Ms. Ard believe any budget discussions should be private? Perhaps spending is outpacing the approved budget? Perhaps funds are somehow missing? Perhaps tax revenues are lagging original projections? Perhaps Ms. Ard doesn't want citizens to know where money is and is not being spent? Or perhaps Ms. Ard doesn't have a clue what's going on?

OSUBuckeye59

After re-reading my above posting, I now better see how Ms. Ard's finance committee meeting no-show/no-pre-warning/no-follow-up-explanation is a pretty big deal. I would expect the meeting agenda to be one where Ms. Ard presents actual spending vs. original budget plan, the folks who created the original tax revenue forecast would present actual revenues vs. original revenue forecast, and the rest of the meeting would most likely focus on any adjustments needing to be made in future spending.

Question: does the city have a 'Rainy Day Fund'? Also, is the City Budget public record?

pavedparadise

From the Register's other story on this issue::::

""Friday’s meeting proved important because members — consisting of certified public accountants who volunteer their services to the city — reviewed an audit detailing Sandusky’s recent revenues and expenses"".

This was not your average everyday "let's have some coffee and donuts" meeting. This was an important "auditors had been in town" meeting. Ard should have been there with her pencil and scratch paper since she is the budget maker for the City.

OSUBuckeye59

With Ms. Ard in her role of City Manager having crafted the original budget based on each departments input, I would see it as vitally important she be present at the update meeting since future expense adjustments would need to be discussed based on revenue and expense updates. Ms. Ard being absent potentially places the city at risk of overspending if actual revenues were lower than expected, or expenses higher than budgeted, or both scenarios playing out.

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