UPDATED: Ard evaluation delayed again

City manager’s prior commitment postpones overdue review. (Updated with video of Sandusky commissioner Diedre Cole on Between the Lines.)
Andy Ouriel
Sep 20, 2013
Sandusky city commissioners planned on completing a long-awaited performance review of city manager Nicole Ard on Monday.

But the evaluation faces another delay because Ard informed commissioners earlier this week she can’t attend Monday’s meeting because she’s scheduled to attend a government conference she previously registered for.

Ard sent city commissioners a text message to alert them of her absence. “We’ll just have to wait until she gets back to complete it,” said commissioner Keith Grohe, who’s captaining the evaluation process.

Commissioners originally estimated the evaluation process would take about 30 days when first announced in mid-July.

The delay in finishing an evaluation is frustrating to some, including commissioner Diedre Cole. “I just want to get this process over with,” Cole said. “It’s long overdue, and it’s taking an inordinate amount of time to do something that should have been done months ago.”

Ard, hired in October 2011, still hasn’t received a job evaluation since starting.

“It should have been done in January (2013),” commissioner Wes Poole said. “It’s my expectation that we will complete it as soon as possible.”

Watch Sandusky City Commission Diedre Cole on Between the Lines today


Evaluation time
Ard seemingly doesn’t want to receive an evaluation.

In March, she publicly disputed any notion that she’s required to receive an evaluation.

She indicated someone waived the review clause during an informal gathering weeks before commissioners hired her. There’s no record, however, that anyone waived the provision.

Two city contracts also clearly spell out an evaluation process; Ard’s employment contract and a contract with a firm hired by the city in 2011 to assist in finding a city manager.

A Register analysis published in January determined Ard — whose annual salary is about $126,000 — failed to complete or did not address 12 goals officials established for her in 2012.

Nicole Ard’s goals
A Register analysis published in January determined Sandusky city manager Nicole Ard did not fully accomplish 12 goals set for her in 2012. The story relied on city data and sources.

The goals:
1. Community engagement
2. Prioritize and track projects
3. Improve efficiency and effectiveness
4. Hire police chief, improve department operations
5. Approve balanced budget
6. Create downtown vision plan
7. Outline plan for selling water
8. Progress land rejuvenation
9. Cooperate with nearby governments
10. Develop and implement strategic plan
11. Negotiate three union contracts
12. Update policies and procedures

The story relied on city data and sources to conclude Ard, at the time, did not fully accomplish a single goal. Ard declined to provide any information while the article was being researched, and she has not refuted the information in it since it was published.

Despite her lack of progress, some commissioners fully support Ard.

Commissioners Cole and Poole both already submitted evaluations for Ard that are both critical of her job performance. They have also raised questions about Ard’s performance in public session. Cole said previously that the majority coalition on commission has “dumbed down” the review.

Meanwhile, commissioners Pervis Brown, Julie Farrar and Jeff Smith all have expressed strong support for Ard, as they feel others constantly “beat up” on her.

Grohe and ex officio mayor John Hamilton haven’t expressed a strong opinion either way.



Wow, what wonderful timing. You would think her timing could be better. Being absent from a city commission meeting and putting off her evaluation at the same time is strategic planning on her part. The city manager should be suspended for pulling a stunt like this. Does leadership even exist at city hall?


horsehockey....what happened to the FIRST evaluation this commission was supposed to do on her in 2012???? why didn't THAT one get done? She was due a ONE YEAR evaluation in 2012 before she got her first raise. Cole and Poole voted to give her that raise too. Where were your buddies Cole and Poole when that one didn't get done? Didn't hear any complaints then, did you? Nope. They were quite as church mice then. But the minute the SR whipped up complaints at the end of last year and all this year, NOW Cole and Poole are in a tizzy and everyone is screaming blue murder. Why is that?

Julie R.

Why don't the county commissioners ever get evaluated? For that matter, why not the prosecutor Kevin Baxter along with his sidekick judges at the courthouse?


They do get evaluated, the first Tuesday in November. DUH.


Julie R. they do get evaluated every time you go to vote them in or out at the voting booth; they get evaluated by the people. As for Baxter, he goes uncontested so there isn't much you can do about it. He has a job for as long as he wants it or until someone runs for his seat.


Stop giving courtesy votes to unopposed candidates. Courtesy votes are a vote of confidence telling the unopposed candidates that they are doing an A+ job as a public official.

There are people who would consider running against an incumbant for a position, but are afraid they wouldn't stand a chance. By casting or not casting a vote for an incumbant, you give those people an idea of where voters stand. If an unopposed candidate is not doing a good job then maybe someone will see that the voters are not satisfied and run against that candidate in the next election.

Stop with the courtesy votes and change will occur. Voters seem to think that the ballot must be filled out completely. That is not true. There could be 50 unopposed candidates on a ballot. Your ballot will be accepted if you only vote for one candidate or issue and leave the rest of ballot blank.

Imagine 40,000 voters and ballots but the unopposed candidate only gets one vote.

Stop It

Totally agree..I've heard many tell me that they think they have to put in that x or fill the circle because of no opposition.

Julie R.

What does voting have to do with evaluations? If the good ole' boy & girl network in Erie County get to keep their positions term after term by default only, the least that should be done is an evaluation on the job they are doing. After all, they are the ones with the power to cause a lot of damage --- a heck of a lot more damage than a city manager would ever have the power to cause.


Again, they DO get evaluated, by the voters, who are the only ones with the ability to do anything about the results of their evaluation. If the voters are too lazy to make sound choices, then they get the government they deserve.

Julie R.

Gee, (sarcasm intended) had I known that an auditor was going to someday authorize a fraudulent transfer of my elderly mother's property under fraud documents prepared by attorneys, a recorder was going to knowingly file fraud documents, a joke court was going to allow their attorney friends to file a forged Will two years after her death and another joke court was going to force property with serious defects in the title to be sold at a scam sheriff sale under a fraud preliminary judicial report, I would have made dam* sure I didn't vote for them.

After all, doesn't the law in every state say "that anybody who assists in fraud is just as guilty as the one(s) that benefit?"


Wish I could have used that excuse whenever my bosses called me in for a meeting.

Looks to me that she is padding her resume and networking and not doing her job.


Why is it that Cole and Poole are the ONLY two commissoners EVER quoted in this newspaper about Ms Ard? It seems to me that perhaps Farrar, Smith and Brown are not too far off on their comment. But what is most ingenuous is that ALL the commissioners were to evaluatate her back in 2012. What happened to THAT evaluation???? Where were Cole and Poole with their mouths then?????? You don't hear them yapping about that evaluation when they did not do the first year evaluation they were supposed to do and missed it. Why is that? It didn't get done until the SR brought it up. NOW they are trying to make a big noise about they got this one done. BULLFEATHERS

T. A. Schwanger



Actually I recall Poole and Cole wanting an evaluation of the City Manager and other charter officers from day one. It's the rest of what the Matt Westerhold refers to as the Majority Coalition not wanting to do an evaluation of the City Manager.


Ard can't be evaluated, she hasn't done anything.


A Performance Evaluation should be completed every 6 months or at a minium yearly. The Commissoners should set forth a yearly Development Plan along with the Performance Objectives for the current year. If results are not met a Partially Effective rating should be given and the employee should be placed on a Performance Improvement Program. If improvement it not acheive in 12 months, termination process should start. I am not sure if the City Manager is performing her job effectively or not but it is clear that the Commissioners are not doing there their job.


The commissioners are terrified to evaluate her. After the Nuesse debacle, they don't dare admit that another out of town "rock star" found through a costly search turned out to be a dud.

Julie R.

Did we forget that the attorney Murray, now running once again for city commissioner, was also involved in the Nuesse debacle? As an afterthought, wasn't Baxter & Lyons, not to mention Erie County's favorite Lorain County rent-a-judge Cirigliano, also involved?

Enough said.


Which has no relevance to this article or the comment to which you're responding. The individuals you mention had nothing to do with the debacle in question, which was the expensive search for an out of town star who was going to fix everything, that star turning out to be a dud, response to her dismissal from the victim mongers in the community.

But you never let a hijacking opportunity slip by, do you, Julie?

Julie R.

What do you mean the individuals mentioned had nothing to do with the debacle in question? Murray was involved in it. Baxter & Lyons were, too. Didn't Baxter & Lyons whine that she wasn't keeping them informed of secret drug raids? Wasn't Cirigliano (Erie County's favorite rent-a-judge) the hearing officer?


Again, they were not involved in her selection, the decision to spend big bucks on a search for an out of town star, her failings in the job, or the reaction of the local victim industry to her dismissal, which are the factors the commissioners fear should they dismiss Ard.

I'm sure that the city hall janitor threw away any of her personal effects she left behind when she cleaned out her desk upon departure, but that doesn't make him a relevant factor to the political fallout of her dismissal.


Just leave her pink slip in her mailbox and she can pick up her last check on the way out the door when she gets back. Can't wait to hear that this person is out of a job.


I agree with that...she obviously is too busy to attend any meetings, let alone a performance evaluation that she knows she will be raked across the coals on. So she can continue to dodge them. Just text her the pink slip, as this seems to be her favorite mode of communication, deposit a final check, and move on....She will get the message eventually

Julie R.

I can't wait to hear who the next person is in line for the city manager job. Care to place any bets that it's a certain attorney?


Your insinuation that he seeks power militates against that, since the position is essentially being a lackey for the commissioners.


Where's the City Law Director and why isn't his job evaluated? Isn't he responsible for ensuring compliance with City ordinances, contracts, and policies by the Commission and City employees?

Further, why is he allowed to send out legal work in unbid contracts without the Commission's approval. What does he do to earn his outrageous salary? Why does the City of Sandusky always seem to be behind the eight ball legally speaking. The law director should be proactive and out in front of issues such as Ard's evaluation

Wasn't the Nuesse debacle by itself evidence of the law director's incompetence in office? Why did the City have to hire outside counsel in that matter? Exactly how was Cirigliano hired and paid to perform official acts on behalf of the city? Where is the record of his oath of office, his contract and the payments made to him? Where are the records for Margaret Cannon who was also acting in official capacity for the City of Sandusky?


It's not the law director's job to defend any but the most trivial of lawsuits. When you're being sued, you want a good litigator specializing in the area of the lawsuit. No decent litigator would ever be a city law director - they can make far more money in private practice and the city job would bore them to tears.

Julie R.

So if no decent litigator would ever be a city law director because they can make far more money in private practice and the city job would bore them to tears, why is Rich Stumphauzer from Erie County's favorite Lorain County law firm of Stumphauzer & O'Toole (who as we all know were the attorneys for MetroParks) the city law director in Vermilion? So he can farm out all legal matters in the city of Vermilion to his Lorain County law firm, maybe? Didn't he and his Lorain County law firm get sued for refusing to provide itemized copies of what they were charging the Vermilion taxpayers?

As an afterthought, if the Murray that's running for city commissioner (won't it bore him to tears?) were to ever become Sandusky's city manager, could he farm out all legal matters in the city of Sandusky to the Murray law firm?


Maybe if Stumphauzer had been an ace litigator, maybe the Metroparks might not have lost. A good litigator working as a full time law director is like a heart surgeon working as a school nurse.

And no, being a city commissioner wouldn't bore a politician seeking power. It's a part time gig, and Sandusky city government offers plenty of political drama.


Actually, Metroparks did win their cases for many years up until the Ohio Supreme Court ruled against them. Dennis O'Toole of the firm led the litigation. He didn't win all those cases because he was good or had the facts on his side but because Cirigliano was the judge and the system was set up for insiders to win.

The Metroparks is an outstanding example of ill advised litigation and the failure of the County's legal counsel (Kevin Baxter) to rein in inappropriate litigation to protect the taxpayers. Baxter was the statutory counsel to Metroparks and should have advised them not to build the Greenway in the first place due title problems. But Baxter (and some Metroparks board members) benefited from that litigation because the law firm helped him out for free with Island Express.

Of course Metroparks did eventually lose in the Ohio Supreme Court but only because the property owners had the resources to take the case that far and apply the political pressure necessary to finally receive a fair hearing. For most people, there is little justice in litigation with government entities because they control the process.

Also, you misapprehend the nature of the law director's job. It is akin to corporate counsel for a company.

Finally, it's not the political drama that's attractive to politicians such as Mr. Murray. It's the power to influence policies and contracts to benefit his clients and law firm and ultimately himself

Julie R.

@Nemesis: Sorry, but Stumphauzer (Vermilion's law director) wasn't the litigator for Metroparks. In fact, Stumphauzer wasn't even with that Lorain County law firm at the time. The firm was known as Baumgartner & O'Toole and Dennis O'Toole (who by the way resides in Vermilion, Ohio) was the ace litigator. Right after the case went to the Supreme Court ~ or maybe it was even before it went to the Supreme Court ~ Baumgartner, his son, and another attorney up and left that firm for unknown reasons.