Sandusky agrees to disagree

Majority coalition reaches 'consensus' on city manager without dissent
Andy Ouriel
Oct 20, 2013


Five city commissioners developed a "consensus" performance evaluation for city manager Nicole Ard, determining in fewer than 150 words that she met her job goals but needs to improve her communication skills. 

Exactly how that "consensus" was reached is anyone's guess. 

Click HERE to read the "consensus and the dissenting evaluations.  

Sandusky city commissioners Diedre Cole and Wes Poole don't know, and their dissenting views aren't part of the evaluation approved by commissioners Keith Grohe, Jeff Smith, Julie Farrar, Pervis Brown and John Hamilton. 

Grohe wrote the majority opinion on Ard's job performance. He did not respond to a request for information sent to him on Friday. Brown and Hamilton also did not reply to questions from the Register about the evaluation process. 

Responses from Smith and Farrar are posted at under the headline, "Jeff Smith replies," but the information they offered doesn't appear to provide clarity.  

Hamilton said in September that "nobody really wanted" Poole's evaluation when he gave it to commissioners during a closed meeting. It's unclear if any of the commissioners who voted for the "consensus" evaluation even read the dissenting viewpoints from Poole and Cole.

When contacted for this story, Ard declined to address the criticisms from Cole and Poole. The evaluation is to be kept private according to her employment contract, she stated, declining to respond to questions. The Ohio Revised Code prohibits public contracts from having privacy provisions that don't comply with the state's public records law. 

Get Monday's Register for a report detailing the dissenting views. Click here to read the ePaper, for home delivery or buy the Register daily at a newsstand near you.




"When contacted for this story, Ard declined to address the criticisms from Cole and Poole. The evaluation is to be kept private according to her employment contract, she stated, declining to respond to questions. "
How can a contract or evaluation of a PUBLIC employee whose wages are paid for by PUBLIC funds be kept PRIVATE? Something smells!


How many times can the Register recycle this storyline, fair & balanced, not so much.

Matt Westerhold

Thanks Sam for the comment. Is there something in particular you find not fair and balanced? Every commissioner was given an opportunity to comment. The SR has posted all of their comments and all the evaluations the city provided. Do you know how It might be more fair or more balanced other than making all of the information available? Your statement is broad and unsubstantiated. That doesn't seem fair or balanced. 


My question was how many times can you recycle the same story line, that clearly does not appear fair or balanced. Its also clear the city can do nothing correct and certain county politicians can do no wrong in the view of this newspaper's management, again not fair or balanced. For an example shouldn't the editorial board give their opinion on raising the county sales tax without the vote of the taxpayers after they applaud the same politicians for their stewardship of the budget which is part is depending on the raising the sales tax without a vote?

Matt Westerhold

Thanks Sam. I understood your question. I simply pointed out the irony of you complaining the SR is not being "fair and balanced" by making an unsubstantiated and unfair claim about that. Since the "consensus" review was just finalized on Thursday, this represents new information being reported, not recycled. As far as whatever fair criticisms you might have about county officials, just look at the numbers, look at the debt and look to see what progress has been made. If I recall correctly, the editorial board did write about the tax increase you mentioned. Likely, given your comments, you didn't agree with that opinion. But in the end, county commissioners did that and there was little, if any, opposition. If there had been opposition, that would have been reported more broadly. You're welcome to email me at, or call me at 419-609-5866 if you would like to discuss this in more detail, but I'm not going to respond to your anonymous questions given the your apparent animosity. 


Why is honest disagreement labeled animosity? No violation of your policies were committed just my opinion and questions, isn't that what free speech and freedom of the press that you allow us to exercise on these blogs all about.
Will the editorial board consider the issue of increasing the sales tax without a vote? One last two part question; is it not true that the last few times that any sales tax increase has been proposed in Erie County that it was defeated, and why didn't the county commissioners place the issue on the ballot if there were not opposition.

Matt Westerhold

Thanks Sam, but you didn't answer the questions I asked. It doesn't seem productive, fair or balanced to continue a one-sided conversation in this way, but as I mentioned, you're welcome to call me at 419-609-5866.


Matt I appreciate your reply but what question didn't I answer and what about my numerous questions left unanswered. I guess we will agree to disagree.


Where on your website do I get to see other commissioners' evaluations besides Poole's and Cole's? Maybe the rest of the commissioners disregarded Poole's and Cole's evaluation because there is a raise in the making for Ard? Shouldn't there be a professional rating sheet coming from each and every commissioner as to how they rated her instead of a piece of note paper with a combined consensus? I am looking for individual ratings and no one can produce them in detail but Cole and Poole?

Matt Westerhold

The 'consensus' evaluation is to the right of the text to the story above in its entirety. Click the photo to enlarge it. Cole's and Poole's evaluations are the only other documents provided by the city. These can be accessed by following the links.

T. A. Schwanger


Can you repost the 12 goals. Also can you post Novak's contract to put to rest Smith's claim Novak did not agree to monitor the City Manager's progress to meet those goals.

Matt Westerhold

Thanks Tim. Ard's contract spells out the evaluation process. It's available online here. Clearly, commissioners failed to follow the provisions in it. The contract with Novak Consulting details how that firm was to assist in the evaluation process. It's not posted online, but I will attempt to track that down Monday and send it to you, or post it here. I don't feel any need to respond to commissioner Smith, however, given his role here and his disparaging comments. Some statements he's made show him to be an inexperienced legislator who might not fully understand the role of a commissioner, or the obligation there is to adhere to open meetings laws, and respect all his colleagues on commission and their right to be heard. Like Smith, they also were elected by a vote of residents. Smith also doesn't seem to understand a newspaper's role and doesn't have any experience in the news industry, either, although he suggests he knows the job better than the people who work in the newsroom. He seems angry the Register is reporting this information, but that's our job. The "consensus" review is 10 months late. Smith, Farrar, Grohe, Hamilton and Brown gave the city manager just two vague goals, going forward. The majority coalition's failure to address the already established goals in any substantial way, and their failure to set any measurable and coherent goals for the future, is a disservice to Ard and to residents, in my opinion. This work speaks louder than Jeff Smith's complaints about the Register. It's all very strange. 


T. A. Schwanger


Thanks Matt.

Well said.

There has been talk of changing the Charter to 5 Commissioners. In speaking with a number of people in town, there is renewed interest in keeping 7 commissioners but going to a 4 ward and 3 at-large system. More discussion is in the future.

Your comments regarding Commissioner Smith (and others) justify going to a Ward System (does not include changing to a Mayor). There is absolutely no accountability with Commission in its current form.

Using Smith as an example, his primary focus is on downtown while the rest of the City continues to decay.

The "Elected City Manager" idea looks better every day doesn't it??

Matt Westerhold

Ard's contract and the Novak contract are both incorporated in the evaluation submitted by Cole to commission. It can be accessed here. It also includes the 12 goals and other documentation related to the concerns Cole cited. 

Smith suggested Cole did not provide the evaluation, and that both Cole and commissioner Wes Poole had limited engagement in the process. It's not clear how that could be correct, given their written evaluations were released in response to public records requests. Commissioner John Hamilton previously said he and the other four commissioners who voted for the consensus evaluation did not want  information from Poole about his assessment.


I find it ironic the only two black commissioners on the city commission agree the black city manager is not performing her job as well as she should.
Is this what black on black is about?


...or are they the only two members of the Commission who aren't afraid of being called "racists" simply because they dare to be critical of a black woman?


There are three. Mr Pervis Brown is also a commissioner.


What does this woman do? We should have known she was going to be worthless when we offered her the job and she had to think about it with her attorney for over a month. Now we find out her evaluations will be kept private? She's a public employee but gets to hide her evaluations from the public? What a load of bollocks.

Julie R.

So what do the worthless narcissistic ones in the COUNTY do? They sure don't work for THE PEOPLE. They don't even work for the LAW that they represent, much less the people.


What everyone should be doing is putting themselves in Ard's shoes.

She lacks experience as a City Manager. Her last two jobs were eliminated which usually means in the private and government sector is she wasn't doing her job.

She is good at going to meetings, but lacks knowhow on getting things done.

She is insubordinate to her bosses the City Commission refusing to answer questions directed to her.

She lacks vision knowhow on accomplishing tasks in a timely manner--hiring of Police Chief, City Engineer and Chief Planner

In order to keep her job, use an attorney as a bargaining chip.

Julie R.

Personally, I wouldn't trust ANY of the public officials in the COUNTY. Believe me when I say, the majority of them are SNAKES.

Julie R.

I can't figure out why everybody is picking so on this Nicole Ard. I'm also curious as to "who" is behind it. I know the county public officials were behind all that slander and flat-out lies about the former clerk of court Barb Johnson, so are they behind this witchhunt, too?

G George I du kno

Matt, even though it is in her contract that her evaluation be kept private, it is a violation of the public records law. The problem is until someone challenges them in Common Pleas court they will never give it up. Maybe this is something the register should pursue because it is obvious they are hiding something!

Julie R.

Diedre Cole says in today's paper that Ard has unjustly fired employees, spinning off into costly arbitration and embarassing the city.

Is Cole for real? I predicted back when all these Sandusky cops were being fired it was only to appease the sheep because of the Nuesse firing. I also predicted that after the fixed Nuesse fiasco was over, all the cops would be reinstated and (surprise, surprise) I was right.

Cole said Ard failed to follow the proper procedure in terminating Officer Steve Ritterbach. Is that the one that was involved in the sexting? If so, why is Ard getting the blame for that? I thought Ritterbach and the other officer involved were fired by the interim Sandusky Police Chief Lang?

Also, why didn't Cole mention the cop that was reinstated because Binette claimed the city's out-of-town attorney hired by DON ISCMAN failed to follow the proper procedure in his filing of paperwork. (once again, I can't believe you sheep actually fell for that)

The paper also says that a judge earlier this month ordered another fired police officer to be reinstated, citing similar errors made by Ard. Is that Ross Glovinsky and his part-time police officer job? If so, once again, does anybody really think that the son of Baxter & Binette's good old buddy, Randy Glovinsky, would NOT be reinstated?

One more thing ---- hey Ms. Cole, I noticed you haven't said anything about your city law director, Don Iscman, and all these so-called wrongful firings that you're blaming Ard for. Why not?

Julie R.

Gee, how touching. Binette chastises the city's hired out-of-town attorney for failing to follow proper procedures with paperwork, leading to the reinstatement of one of the cops. So why didn't Binette chastise the city law director, Don Iscman? He's the one that hired him. And besides ...... behind closed doors you can bet the attorney got a pat on his back. I know how they work up at that courthouse.