Ard gets last chance

“Failure to meet or exceed these expectations or any display of gross misconduct will result in further action, up to and including termination”
Andy Ouriel
Jan 28, 2014
Sandusky city commissioners gave the government’s top-paid employee an ultimatum: Shape up or get shipped out.

Commissioners on Monday delivered a last-chance agreement to city manager Nicole Ard, demanding she immediately improve upon her lackluster performance or be fired.

Ard, making about $129,000 a year, received the four-page memo after commissioners conducted a private, hour-long meeting.

Watch the public portion of the city commission meeting HERE

The memo, peppered with numerous shortcomings since Ard started two-plus years ago, concluded as such: “Effective (today), you are placed on a 60-day performance improvement plan. During this time, you will be expected to make regular progress on the plan.

“Failure to meet or exceed these expectations or any display of gross misconduct will result in further action, up to and including termination”

The memo ended: “In addition, if there is no significant improvement to indicate that the expectations and goals will be met within the timeline indicated in this performance improvement plan, your employment may be terminated prior to 60 days. Furthermore, failure to maintain performance expectations after the completion of the performance improvement plan may result in additional action, up to and including termination”

Download the Performance Improvement Plan in the pdf below

Among the areas requiring immediate improvement and how Ard must go about it:    

Poor communication skills, disappointing leadership

• Problem: Community members, business leaders and others complaining about Ard to commissioners, specifically how she doesn’t properly respond to — or she simply ignores — their questions.

• Critique: “Due to mixed messages commissioners receive from staff, city departments, (the) community, business leaders, residents, media and local governments about your ability to communicate, respond, offer input and develop cooperative relationships, we question your ability to be an effective, competent and strong leader”

• Goal: Communicate timely, courteously and effectively with all.

• Solutions: Read the local print and online newspaper on a daily basis to stay informed on pressing issues; make yourself available for interviews; promptly respond to all inquiries; take immediate steps to repair severed relationships.

Dismal financial planning

• Problem: Ard’s negligence in addressing a $1.1 million city budget shortfall forced commissioners to propose cuts in rapid fashion without as much input as desired.

• Critique: “You have put the city in a position to make fiscal decisions that could potentially be more drastic to the community at large had prior planning and decisions been made earlier in the process”

• Goal: Prepare budget with city officials and present financial options and recommendations for commission’s approval.

• Solutions: Begin strategic planning on finances with city officials; create about $4 million, or 25 percent of total projected expenses estimated at $16 million in 2014, in reserves; develop 2015 and 2016 expense projections; take steps to fill vacated positions; advertise for new fire chief.

Meager organizational development

 Problem: Ard regularly fails to communicate with other city officials.

• Critique: “Due to misunderstandings and periodic breakdown of communication between department heads and you, there is a sense that department heads are being left out of the decision-making process, and there is an overall lack of teamwork approach to decisions”

• Goal: Create a better work environment with department heads.

• Solutions: Meet weekly with department heads to talk about important issues; generate team-building exercises; strive for clear and concise discussions with staff; schedule weekly department meetings; exchange ideas, information and opinions with others to formulate policies and programs.

Disregard in meeting with other officials

• Problem: Ard’s negligence in meeting with other officials, and making hasty decisions on her own, has created legal chaos and financial disarray.

• Critique: “You have put the city in a position to respond to fiscal and legal issues and challenges that could have possibly been avoided if you would have consulted with them prior to making final decisions related to negotiating union contracts, hiring, firing, disciplining personnel and submitting a budget”

• Goal: Cooperate better with law director and finance director.

• Solution: Meet bi-weekly with both officials, separate from staff meetings, to communicate issues of importance carrying possible legal, financial or public relations ramifications onto Sandusky.

Several commissioners — including the newly elected trio of Dick Brady, Naomi Twine and ex officio mayor Dennis Murray Jr. — have criticized and questioned Ard’s overall management style both during campaign season and after entering office.

Their arrival sparked these talks and memo.

Commissioner Wes Poole, the fourth of seven commissioners, has also voiced disdain with Ard’s performance.

But Ard’s seemingly OK with the trio and anyone else questioning her work ethic.

“I’m hopeful that this is an opportunity to make sure we are on the same page to progress,” Ard said after receiving the memo.



Well it seems that the worse kept secret about what the 3 New Stooges... my bad I mean the 3 New commissioners planned as their 1st order of business is now in the open. Dump the city Manager. This farce about giving Ms. Ard one last chance would be laughable if it was not so shameful. No matter what she accomplishes during her trial period will not be enough. Your plan from day one was to fire her. Now you have the 4 votes you need, it is a done deal. Just be honest about the dirty,underhanded deed you are about to spring on Ms. Ard

Julie R.

EVERYTHING done in Sandusky & Erie County is dirty and underhanded.


@humbug...when one does not do their job. what does one expect? I have personal, first hand knowledge that she repeadidly does not keep appointments, blows off meetings and does not interact with department heads. I wonder just what she does do with her time since she seems to always "be on the phone" and yet is never in her office. What would you call it? The third time was the charm for me to reschedule the same meeting. How much would it take for you?


Ah, yes, I see the "I told you so group" is out in force, reminding everyone that they and their croynees said so months ago in so many words that this or that would happen. That they, and only they, such as past council people tried desperately tried to warn the good people of Sandusky that she was no good and should go. But did they vote that way? NO. Did they fire her.....NO. Where were they when nip came to tuck with their convictions????? No where, that's where. They let her sit right there and did absolutely nothing. As usual. They did nothing and said nothing. In fact, they agreed and voted as such and left well enough alone and she stayed in her job and got her raise, so I don't want to hear now that they did a darn thing to stop this. Tooo little way tooo late. Which means they did nothing. It took the new council members exactly TWO meetings to do what that group couldn't do in four years. Why is that?????

So do not come on here and defend what is indefensible and should not be defended. A lack of conviction and lack of action is what happened and it shows. Action and conviction is what is now going on. I suggest to those who see it and don't recognize it for what it is, to look a little harder and try to learn it.

Julie R.

Other than initiating yet another witchhunt against a female, what exactly has your new Sandusky commissioners accomplished in the 34 days they have been in office?


If the commissioners are so concerned about costs and the budget, why not stop the double-dippers as well? Why not get rid of them, too? I do believe the SR brought that up months ago and they were ignored.

Julie R.

Gee, hard to believe that everybody in the city of Sandusky plus all the county public officials are doing such a great fantastic job with the exception of Ard. In the city, it's the law director, the finance director, the new Sandusky police chief, and the new city commissioners that are doing a great job .... and in the county, it's the walk-on-water county commissioners, the judges Tygh Tone & Roger Binette, and the new Clerk of Court Luvada Wilson, who came from the court of Tygh Tone.

Give it a week or two and we'll probably even get to hear what a fantastic job the county commissioner Tom Ferrell's wife is doing as the new county Treasurer!