Nicole Ard fired

Sandusky city commission votes 4-3 to terminate city manager's employment
Mar 29, 2014

In a divided but decisive vote, city commissioners Friday fired Sandusky’s highest-ranking and top-paid employee.

Effective immediately, commissioners voted 4-3 to terminate city manager Nicole Ard. They also voted 4-3 to appoint city law director Don Icsman as interim city manager.

Ex officio mayor Dennis Murray Jr. and commissioner Jeff Smith volunteered to spearhead an in-house process to find a new city manager. The city manager is effectively a government’s version of a CEO, overseeing daily services, such as police and fire, and reporting to commissioners.

“This is a difficult decision for the commission,” Murray said. “Ms. Ard is a very nice person, and I regret that I am going to cast a ‘yes’ vote, but it is time to move the city in a different direction”

Joining Murray in favor of termination were commissioners Dick Brady, Wes Poole and Naomi Twine.    The three dissenting votes, boiling down to those wanting Ard to stick around, were cast by commissioners Julie Farrar, Scott Schell and Smith.

Ard, a non-union employee, provided a brief statement to a reporter shortly after the vote.

“I look forward to continuing being a resident here and making a difference here in the community,” Ard said.

When asked to comment on her firing, she said, “I will have to let you talk to the commission about that”

Ard’s firing came two months after commissioners gave her a last-chance agreement to shape up or ship out. In a nutshell, the last-chance agreement outlined many of the deficiencies commissioners perceived in Ard’s performance since she began in fall 2011.

Chief among them: She mishandled legal, disciplinary and termination proceedings, costing city taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. The most glaring issues involved firing at least four police officers, only to have each one ordered to return. In all cases, an independent judge or neutral third party mandated these officers return to Sandusky’s force — with back pay — after Ard or someone she worked with botched the termination process.

The document, drafted in January, indicated that if she didn’t improve in 60 days commissioners could fire her.

On Friday, that’s what the majority decided to do.

Going away pay?
A stipulation in Ard’s employment agreement calls for her to receive six months of pay if she’s fired within a six-month period once a new commission enters office. This commission’s current two-year term started in January.

Ard, who earns about $129,000 a year, would then be entitled to about $64,500, per her deal’s termination clause.

It’s no guarantee she’ll receive this money, said Murray, who’s a partner in the Murray & Murray law firm.

“I don’t believe one commission has the ability to bind the hands of another commission” Murray said.

New hope
Ard is just the latest casualty in Sandusky’s apparent failure in selecting city managers. Matt Kline, Ard’s predecessor, was fired in November 2009 for allegedly making racist remarks and for breaching his fiduciary duty to the city.

Between Kline and Ard, Icsman served as the temporary city manager, convincing commissioners to once again have him serve in this interim role.

Murray vowed to find a person capable of running the government efficiently and transparently.

“The city has a lot of problems it needs to address, with some of those problems predating Ms. Ard’s tenure,” Murray said. “We need to move on some of those issues that have been neglected for a while. We have a lot of people interested in being the city manager of Sandusky. Now that this position is available, let’s move forward and see who it is”

Watch the vote in the player below



Wasn't there something in Ard's contract that she could not be fired right after a new commission was seated?


OK, I'm just going to throw this out there. Do you realize how many of the most recent City Manager's have been fired? To my best recollection, the only one that wasn't fired within the last decade actually quit. I do remember he left us with something worse than an STD prior to leaving. I'm sure he is still laughing over that one.

Ralph J.

Ard's employment contract


Is Mr. Will coming back?


Maybe she could go to Huron and apply there for a job so their city manager will stop spending money to make the town pretty instead of safe!

Ralph J.

Maybe Ard refused to go along with the good old boys club. Those good old boys like puppets so they can pull the strings. Next candidate for Sandusky city manager will be Howdy Doody.


Ah yes, the perennial grand conspiracy theory of Sandusky, the mysterious good ole boys' club, made up of those who are never named.

Got your tinfoil hat, Ralph?


I was thinking more along the line of Mr. Jing a know the "keeper of the keys" at the old Halle's department store. His character resembles the puppet master.


She probably has been expecting this. We need to do something different on this city. Not one of those who voted to fire her has an ounce of credibility. I don't know whether she was doing her job but I do know who is sitting on the city commission, over inflated egos.


Not sure on the exact date of Scott Schell's swearing in to the commission, but it appears as though Ms. Ard will be receiving about 11 months of severance...6+5


Moderators have removed this comment because it contained Personal attacks (including: name calling, presumption of guilt or guilt by association, insensitivity, or picking fights).

Bada Bing

Wait for it wait for it......$$$$$ to Ard!

Bada Bing

Wait for it wait for it......$$$$$$ for Ard!

my oh my

Its all public record our salaries and such for anyone of us in the public service arena...

Dr. Information

Called this one when she was given her last warning. I knew it would only be a matter of months. She didn't do her job so she was canned.

Bada Bing


Ralph J.

How well did Icsman do as a city manager? What were his evaluations. I do recall that Icsman got extra pay for being both the law director and also city manager. Was his pay reduced once Ard was hired?


i bet ya one of murrays cronies will be selected maybe someone from consenco?


I have not heard of one thing she has accomplished so maybe there should be no city manager??!! Use her salary for the fire dept, but still raise the C P admissions tax.


lets just go to a mayor ward system let the voters decide get an injunction to stop the process of city manager after all the commish wants to downsize the commish anyways .. lets start this process now!!


lets just go to a mayor ward system let the voters decide get an injunction to stop the process of city manager after all the commish wants to downsize the commish anyways .. lets start this process now!!


Here's an idea.

How about we elect the City Manager rather than have one appointed by a bunch of bumbling idiots?

Oh wait, that was tried two years ago through a ballot issue and failed. Should someone lead another effort?

Truth or Dare

Wasn't she just honored for being a First?! Call me crazy, but the way I feel she should have been spearheading a raise in the Admission Tax with at least 5 Commissioners behind her. I'm with Retiredfirefighter, yet when push comes to shove with the form of government we have the buck still stops at the top.


Spearheading a raise in the Admission Tax would have been her salvation. It would have put the Commission in an awkward position. If they fired her it would look like retaliation for the push.


I agree 100% and posted in the past that she ought to lead the Admissions Tax increase effort to generate community support for her position and to expose Murray's and others untenable conflicts of interest. Maybe, Murray, Brady and others were worried that she would do just that and acted pre-emptively to prevent her from leading the proposal.


So, in other words, she not only wasn't a good administrator - she wasn't a very good politician, either, eh?


Looks that way


I'm wondering why anyone would be surprised by this?? Ard did things one way, HER way regardless of what anyone thought , the City Commission included. But now you have commissioners in there who aren't afraid to speak up, unlike the "sheep" Jeff smith and Julie farrar.....she's gone because she spent the city's money on foolish things...and refused to answer for her mistakes....I wish her luck in her next job, hope she learned some things


I don't think anyone is surprised. You might be right about doing things HER way. I think that she was a micro-manager. She definitely tried to micro-manage the SPD and the services dept in my opinion. Not a delegator. But that's just my opinion.

I don't agree that Jeff Smith and Julie Farrar are "sheep" -- anything but. I think your characterisation is backwards.


It's not a question of being sheep - it's a matter of saving face for the incumbents who hired her and spent the first six months of her tenure declaring how she was the greatest thing since sliced bread. To vote for getting rid of her now, they'd have to do something politicians NEVER do - admit they were wrong.