Fact check on Facebook

Sandusky city commissioner Jeff Smith defends city manager's decision to ignore finance committee
Register
Jul 8, 2013

City manager Nicole Ard hasn’t reviewed audit numbers of the city’s 2013 budget with the finance committee, and members of the committee haven’t heard from her since she missed a scheduled meeting last month. 

“I thought she would have reached out to us to say ‘let’s sit down and have a cup of coffee and talk,’” finance committee chairman Allen Nickles said. “I’m at a loss for words.” 

Ard refused to discuss her absence when asked about it during a June 24 commission meeting, citing a “closed section” of her contract.

She has since refused to expand or clarify that explanation.

She also declined to respond to questions from the Register about whether she reviewed the audit information, saying it was a matter for her, the committee and city commission to review privately. 

At least one city commissioner praised Ard despite the disconnect between her and the committee. 

“(She’s) been on the hot seat from the local newspaper and commissioners (Diedre) Cole and (Wes) Poole, about missing a finance committee meeting last week,” commissioner Jeff Smith stated in a June 28 post at his personal Facebook page. “Let’s look at some facts.”

Those “facts,” however, don’t match information committee members have. 

Smith detailed a comparison of attendance records for past city managers, contrasting Ard’s record with that of law director Don Icsman.

Smith said Icsman missed six finance committee meetings when he served as both law director and city manager in 2010-2011, and Ard “missed only one finance committee meeting” in 2012.  

It’s not an apples-to-apples comparison, Nickles said, since the finance committee met 12 times a year when Icsman was city manager and the schedule then was not intended for the manager, a member of the committee, to attend each meeting. 

The current meeting schedule since 2012 is for just four finance committee meetings each year.

“We were in constant contact with Don Icsman when he was both city manager and law director during that period,” Nickles said, adding that Icsman was not expected at the meetings he did not attend. “There was no need for him to attend every meeting.” 

In contrast to Icsman, Ard has not communicated with committee members. The meeting she missed last month was to review preliminary audit information concerning budget revenue projections and expenses. 

The committee also canceled one previous meeting because Ard failed to respond to requests for additional information and documentation during the budgeting process prior to commission approving the 2013 budget, Nickles said. The committee was concerned her revenue projections for the budget were not realistic, and refused to sign off on the budget. 

The committee serves the community on a volunteer basis — for free — and the members of it are CPAs and business leaders in the community who have carefully reviewed the city’s finances for many years. The June 21 meeting Ard skipped was her second no-show without explanation. 

Both Cole and Poole have made an unsuccessful push for commission to provide a performance review for Ard so she can be given guidance on where she needs to improve. Ard, whose annual salary is $126,000, failed to meet all the 2012 goals for her first year on the job that were established when she was hired. 

A professional performance review the city paid for that was part of a contract with a firm hired in 2011 to conduct the search for city manager candidates never occurred. That provision was “waived” during a “meet and greet” with the community when she was hired, Ard has said, but there does not appear to be any record commission did that.

Smith has said there was no such review provision, but it is clearly included in the contract with Novak Consulting, the firm hired to conduct the search. Smith referred to Ard’s contract when he said the provision did not exist.

Smith suggested in his Facebook post that questions surrounding Ard’s failure to attend finance committee meetings and other issues were a “witch hunt.” He also stated his “heart goes out to Cole” concerning excused absences from commission meetings that were granted her. Cole has been helping family members care for her terminally ill mother, who lives in another state, but Smith chided her nonetheless for missing those meetings. 

“Why has the (Register) and these two commissioners not made mention of the previous city manager missing six meetings in two years?” Smith asked. “Why no stories about Cole missing 13 meetings in 2½ years?”

The members of the finance committee raised the concerns about Ard’s failure to attend the meetings or communicate with them. No other commissioner or city official — other than Smith in his Facebook post — ever raised concerns about Icsman or Cole missing meetings. 

The Register also has reported Cole’s excused absences when commission votes occur. 

Smith and commissioner Julie Farrar both have used the social media site to post information about city business and make disparaging remarks about Cole and Poole, complaining when they are quoted in Register news articles. 

Some posts at their Facebook pages have been found to contain numerous inaccuracies, and “friends” at their pages have posted comments based on that inaccurate information, often in hyperbolic tones.

Icsman, Cole and Poole declined comment for this article. 

Comments

Wald

Too bad you consider informing yourself as wasting time. You kind of sound like the three stooges of your BOE.

sandtown born a...

So sorry you wasted your time like so many others that followed this so called story to Facebook. Typical talk out of your tail political crap

Wald

Commissioner Smith has torn apart this entire article on his FB page by providing researched facts. Too bad the Register isn't as professional.

sandtown born a...

Maybe just maybe he could put forth the same effort at making a difference in this deteriorating city. Instead of worrying about what people say or put in print, after all they are just words

Wald

Telling the truth and pointing out inaccuracies in the SR concerning local government is a step towards making a difference. Or don't you like the truth?

sandtown born a...

I expect the truth it is just hard finding it amongst all the crap in the paper and on his FB page. It's like sifting thru a ton of info to find the pound of truth.

PaulYall

Sandtown, the city of sandusky has duly elected ALL commissioners and each one of them have given there services to make this city a better place! Maybe you should run for office and give your part in the community as they did! Each one of them has taken criticism for doing there part..its a thankless job! Somebody has to do it!

sandtown born a...

Is doing there part really what's going on? No it is not all of them are out for personal agendas not always looking out for the best interest of its citizens or the city. NO THANKS politicians and preachers you can't really trust either one.

pavedparadise

Smith loves to play "you say tomato I say tomayto--the old smoke an mirrors game.

He refers to Ard's contract between her and the City, when clearly Poole, Cole and the Register are referring to the Navak Consulting Group Agreement.

From the Navak Contract:: NCG will contact the successful (City Manager) candidate at various intervals during his/her first year on the job discussing their progress toward implementation of established goals and update the City Commission.

This provision was waived during a "meet and greet"? How? the Novak Contract was just that--a contract.

After more than a year and a half the City Manager's job performance has not been evaluated. This should have been the first order of business ahead of the other Charter Officers.

Smith needs to get his head out of the sand. Incompetence breeds incompetence.

JohnDorian12

Facebook????? What is he 16 years old???? Everyone who is still wondering what's wrong with that city.....you have your answer....maybe Ard and Deidre Cole should settle it on the play ground or go tell the principal.....so glad I don't live in that toilet of a city

Wald

FB is hardly just for teens. And if you don't live in Sandusky, why are you even bothering to comment?

JohnDorian12

Well be cuz this isn't just for people who live there, so until you can make them change it to just city residents I think I'll continue to voice my opinion...also to handle city business using Facebook is very immature, but it appears you're a resident so it doesn't surprise me that you'd take this position...anyone who would defend Ard in this issue is ignorant sry...

rezzy

When we are paying Ard $127,000 of our money each year, she has the obligation to disclose her rationale for not attending. If she can't, then that simply means she has something to hide or no logical reason. As far as Jeff is concerned, he probably had the biggest push to get her in and fears we'll vote him out. Good luck Jeff!

sanduskymom

Commissioner Smith wasn't a commissioner when Ard was hired.

rezzy

Then he wants to jump into a sinking ship for no apparent reason? There's some connection...can't wait to figure out why he would want to sink with her....hmmmm!

rezzy

When we are paying Ard $127,000 of our money each year, she has the obligation to disclose her rationale for not attending. If she can't, then that simply means she has something to hide or no logical reason. As far as Jeff is concerned, he probably had the biggest push to get her in and fears we'll vote him out. Good luck Jeff!

sanduskymom

Commissioner Smith wasn't a commissioner when Ard was hired.

Truth or Fiction

I believe Commissioner Smith was simply stating a fact. The fact being that the City Commission for the past decade has spent more time accusing rather than doing. First they ran Will out of town on a rail. Then Kline was roasted and discarded. Widman was thrown to the dogs and now it's the Ard attack. All accomplished under the guise of city government. It smacks of the French revolution and if our city is to get off the mantel of "joke" government, it is time that our commission supports the City Mnaager they chose!

T. A. Schwanger

###

From Smith's Facebook Page::
Jeff Smith June 4

"Rumor has it is the register has started working on (Commissioner) Mrs. Coles re-election campaign, as well as a new campaign for Tim Schwanger, so stay tuned to the Sandusky Register for Cole/Schwanger feel good stories. And I'm sure they will retaliate against me for bringing this up".

Personally speaking, instead of Smith playing the game of "he said-she said" with the Register and running the rumor mill, I'd like to see him use his Facebook Page as a means to explain to the community, and his followers, his plans for the community on long term economic development and permanent job creation (other than his support to sell the Sandusky Bay Pavilion and relocate City Hall back downtown), neighborhood improvements, city property upkeep, his plans to reduce the number of elected Commissioners from 7 to 5 (discussed during his election campaign), real and documented plans on reducing crime and drug activity, the dormant City Brownfields Program and his opinion on cleaning up coal tar seeping into Sandusky Bay, among other topics of public concern and interest.

Pragmatic, the first commenter on this article, summarized this issue very well--elected officials are expected to be "good leaders, have high expectations, and hold himself and others accountable.... rather than play the blame game."

To date, the only claim he can make as a City Commissioner is supporting projects tied only to downtown--the $18,000 taxpayer funded Downtown Parking Plan and his dream of relocating City Hall.

gramafun

I believe Cole and Poole are the only two of the commissioners who come up for election this year, not Smith if memory serves. So if you are deciding to run this year, it will be against one of these two. Frankly, I hope you beat one of the two. I would like to see you unseat Cole but with one proviso. Not every site along the waterfront needs to be public access to the water, Mr. Swanger nor does it need to be a park. I hope you have more in your bag than that.

T. A. Schwanger

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@gramafun

My point of including Smith's Facebook comments in my previous post is he is providing the same disservice to the community he accuses the Register of providing. I am not running for a Commission seat at this time opting to continue in the capacity of Community Activist. Smith preferred to spread unsubstantiated rumors regarding my candidacy for City Commission.

As a previous commenter stated, there are many, many politicians using Facebook to get their agenda message across to constituents. Their messages primarily focus on what programs and issues they a personally working---not playing the tit for tat game Smith has deployed.

FYI--the Commission seats up for re-election this year are--Hamilton, Brown and Cole. Perhaps this year the best candidates will win---not via popularity contest.

rezzy

I think anyone up against Smith won't have too much trouble, especially after he chimed in and supported Ard's unwillingness to participate in financial planning meetings.

gramafun

@TA Schwanger....I heard you were running this year from a "friend" of yours, not from Mr Smith so it wasn't a "disservice to the city" as you state. Not making comments to the SR is not a disservice to the city and using other media forms isn't a disservice either. A "tit for tat' game is something no one wins and is childish at its best. However, that game is something being perputrated by media forms everywhere.

If the media plans to stand behind only one or two candidates already as YOU stated plainly, then it is already stating a bias which is truly sad. They have announced a bias that will be unfair to others running for the three seats. That is truly sad and shows a lack of wisdom, fairness in politics and an unbiased behavior I thought they had. I hope you are wrong.

T. A. Schwanger

@gramafun

To be clear, it was a post generated by yourself and Smith's Facebook Page stating the Register will stand behind only one or two candidates--not me.

"gramafun" Tue,07/09/2013 - 12:44am with this announcement it seems pretty certain that the SR will backing two people only doesn't it??????"

I stand by my previous post--If smith feels he needs to get his word out to the public via electronic media fine. However, he should be using that media to explain how he intends to address the many issues facing Sandusky including the issue you mention--evaluating the City Manager's job performance.

Maybe I and others are expecting too much out of local elected officials. It's one thing for a ordinary citizen to spread rumors, hearsay and belittle others---we expect better from an elected official.

gramafun

with this announcement it seems pretty certain that the SR will backing two people only doesnt it??????

gramafun

Why is it the City Commissioners have failed to take Ms Ard task as yet and evaluate her performace as a city manager? Are they fearful of doing so? It is one thing they should have done long ago and have yet to do. As for Commissioner Smith using Facebook as a medium to speak...why not? If he feels he cannot get a fair shake from the SR, then he has every right to go where he feels he can get a fair shake. Speaking from FB may be his only platform he feels he can get a place from which he can speak freely, open up, speak the truth and not worry that his words are not twisted but come out just the way they are said. In that way, I must agree with him. Facebook is his answer if that is what he feels comfortable with. Good luck to him.

Commenter

I haven't read all the comments, just read the article. I think it's pretty unprofessional for someone to be posting on their personal facebook page about issues like this. Do you not have a social media policy for the city?

Commenter

apparently triplicate post. sorry!

Commenter

duplicate post

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