Nicole Ard fired

Sandusky city commission votes 4-3 to terminate city manager's employment
Register
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

Comments

Nor'easter

Just don't let Dick Brady run the search like he did last time.

worddrow811

It seems to me that city government is a form of marriage, with each side acting like they are something special to get the other person's approval. They agree to a contract of one form or another and then wham, you find out what they are really like. Divorce then becomes the only option after much soul searching and crying about who did what to whom.

The powers that be were correct in their divorcing themselves from an incompetent person who did not deliver on her job performance. It does not absolve them of their mistakes and they, too, should be held accountable for the mess they helped make in this situation.

kimi43464's picture
kimi43464

It's about time!!!!!!!!! She has done NOTHING for Sandusky. Being NICE doesn't get the job done. Sorry Nicole.

goodtime1212

In the paper today, it states, per a separation deal she is to get 65,000.00 but Murry stated. she may not get that because "I don't believe one commission has ability to bind the hands of another commission." If this is true, is no wonder this city is a mess, every commission can redo everything the old commission did. This is two steps forward and 3 steps back. No wonder the cant find more good people to work in that office.

DGMutley

I haven't read the paper yet, lol, but the present Commission can't renege on her contract. That's absurd; but I guess anything is possible if you want to spend the bucks. The rest of your post is yes and yes.

Babo

I agree with you. What good is a contract if every time a new Commissioner is elected or appointed all the old agreements become void? Murray is frankly speaking out of his a$$.

However, given that this would be a matter of civil litigation and Murray and Murray law firm pretty much run the courthouse; the law and facts will not matter. Ard if she finds it necessary to sue to enforce her contract ought to consider finding a way to bring it in Federal Court.

Julie R.

I predicted back when Kim Nuesse got fired and they started firing all those other Sandusky cops that it was only done to appease the sheep and when the Nuesse fiasco blew over the cops would all get their jobs back --- and I was right.

I then predicted Ard's firing when Murray ran for city commissioner again and when his judge buds Tygh Tone & Roger Binette publicly chastised her --- one because she dared to fire the part-time police officer son of good 'ole boy Randy Glovinsky and the other because the city's out-of-town attorney (brought in by Iscman) supposedly "failed to file the proper paperwork" that led to the reinstatement of another cop. (I still can't believe you sheep fell for that "paperwork" crap)

Face it, people, the more things change in Sandusky the more they stay the same!

Nemesis

"(I still can't believe you sheep fell for that "paperwork" crap)"

This from the one who, until I corrected her, made a habit of referring to legal documents as people.

Julie R.

You lost me on the legal documents as people.

As for the paperwork crap ---- an attorney of all people forgets to file a Certificate of Service that's required with all filings? Yeah, right. They must of had to scrape the bottom of the barrel to come up with that one!

Nemesis

How quickly she forgets.

Ralph J.

Good luck to the next city manager. If I applied to become Sandusky's next city manager and became a finalist, I would look hard at how Sandusky seems to get rid of city managers in the recent past years before I would sign an employee contract. Ard bought her home in early 2012 for $145,000 yet her property valuation shot up to $164,180. Why the increase? Ard pays property taxes and also city income taxes. There are more facts to be told about Ard being fired. Look for a lawsuit coming and Cirigliano coming back to town.

bnjjad

Her property valuation actually decreased. It was originally $175K in 2009 then readjusted. She bought the house for $145K, she actually got a deal if property values are anything to go by on price.

Darkhorse

The city goes through city managers because none of them know how to lead. If the city should get someone really experienced, the person will not have to worry about the swinging door at city hall.

KURTje

Please: if you hire a replacement, hire within Ohio.

Julie R.

So who do you think is next in line for city manager? I predict it will be Don Iscman. In fact, that's probably already settled. I predict Iscman will retire as the law director and then take over as city manager, double-dipping like Baxter and the rest of them. After all, we have to keep the taxpayer monies in the family!

Ralph J.

That sounds about right.

Just a Girl

Please do not allow Mr. Smith to serve on the hiring committee. His lack of judgment/understanding about Ms. Ard's unintelligible tenure is disturbing.

Julie R.

When you look at the whole picture, Erie County now has lawyers from two of the biggest law firms around running two of its cities. Sandusky now has a Murray and in Vermilion the law director is from Baxter & Co.'s favorite Lorain County law firm, who already cost the Erie County taxpayers 3.2 million with the MetroParks case alone!

SamAdams

Julie, in point of fact, the millions of wasted taxpayer dollars in connection with Erie Metroparks has nothing to do with the law firm the parks hired and everything to do with the fact that Erie Metroparks stole land from private citizens.

Lawyers charge what they charge. And while I think it's sometimes quite a bit too much, it's also evident that the total legal costs would have been $0 if Metroparks hadn't committed crimes.

Julie R.

Bull. Notice how even the attorneys for the railroad covered themselves before they sold the property to MetroParks stating they didn't think the railroad even owned the property after they stopped using it --- instead, it went back to the original owners. And all those attorneys in that big Lorain County law firm, the Erie County Common Pleas Court judges, the rent-a-judges, like Cirigliano, and the joke 6th District Court of Appeals didn't know that?

That case, like all shady cases in Erie County, could of been and should of been over before it even began. But hey, as long as they have the taxpayer monies at their disposal, what do they care?

Babo

You can't be this naive Sam. The law firm was responsible for ensuring that Metro Parks had clear title to the land BEFORE litigating the land owners into the ground and overcharging the taxpayers for what turned out to be baseless and frivolous litigation. Just who do you think kept assuring the Metro Parks board that they did have good title and to keep litigating the land owners to death? Also who do you think advised Metro Parks that it was OK for Jim Lang and his park rangers to saw off a deck all the while holding the Coles at bay at gun point WHILE engaged in litigation with them?

It is only because the Coles had the resources to litigate the matter all the way, that title was established. People with lesser resources such as Julie R are at the mercy of unethical firms that abuse the legal system to generate legal fees and misappropriate property knowing that few can go the distance with them.

Finally, I agree they stole people's land with the advice of counsel, so the multi million dollar taxpayer question for Baxter is why hasn't anyone been charged with a crime and why hasn't the law firm that billed all that money unlawfully been forced to repay the county?

SamAdams

You and Julie make a valid point. While I'm sure we ALL agree that, if Metroparks had kept its greedy paws to itself, the legal fees would have totalled ZERO, the lawyers kept it going. Granted, Metroparks could and should have stopped after the first ruling came down against it, but I'm sure the lawyers were just as happy to keep going (and keep billing).

As for the paperwork provided by the railroad, well, I've seen it. And it's clear as a bell: If the property wasn't in use, it reverted to those who held title. The railroad lawyers didn't cover ANYbody's behind with legal terminology or loopholes. Nope. It was all in ordinary and relatively simple language. And what that means is that, lawyers or no lawyers, anybody who can speak and read English should have understood it, and that includes the Metroparks folks who hired the lawyers in the first place.

Babo

Right if it was so clear why did Baxter allow the Metro parks to hire attorneys who told certain Board members what they want to hear?

Again, it is the duty of the county prosecutor to stop illegal payments to attorneys and it was the duty of the law firm hired to tell Board that they did NOT have clear title to the land.

To me it's a matter of some board members creating billings for their friends in return for some unseen benefit, much like the current situation in Sandusky County.

Ralph J.

Portage County Metroparks say that they utilize the county prosecutor.

The Portage Park District is an independent political subdivision of the State of Ohio formed in 1991 with its jurisdiction covering all of Portage County. Although it is independent of County government, the Park District utilizes the services of the Portage County Auditor, Treasurer and Prosecutor, and has received some financial support from the Portage County General Fund upon the discretion of the Portage County Commissioners.

http://portageparkdistrict.org/a...

Ralph J.

Anybody want to wager that a new city manager has already been picked?

Nemesis

I doubt it. They can't decide what to have for lunch without paying a consultant tens of thousands of dollars to conduct a study.

OSUBuckeye59

Ms. Ard being fired is, unfortunately, not a surprise.

What I would like to see in the next City Manager is a person with skills similar to a Biz Ops Mgr in the private sector. I don't think the City Manager has to come from the public sector as an experienced Biz Ops Mgr has what I would believe are the requisite skills to be successful as a CM, namely organizational, communication, financial and personnel management skills, and the knowledge of how to mix and apply all of the above skills at the right time both in Leading and Managing, with the understanding of knowing when it's best to Lead, when it's best to Manage, and when it's best to delegate or simply get out of the way. I also believe the next CM needs to understand how to work with and lead the Commission as well.

Any candidate who's given the opportunity to interview should understand they need to interview the Commission as much as the Commission interviews them, including asking questions such as:
1. How will I be measured as successful?
2. Expectations of results within 3 months, 6 months, 1 year?
3. Have you documented the Roles & Responsibility of a CM? If yes, please provide.
4. Have you created 3 & 5 year Strategic Roadmaps for the city?

The above are just some of the questions I'd pose to those conducting the interviews. In addition, I'd suggest potential candidates develop an Onboarding Transition outline document with major sections the potential CM would plan to complete within their first 30+ days, including, but not limited to:
Strategic Objectives
Key Stakeholder Mapping
Finance Budget Details
Situational Analysis
Core Meetings
Key Success Metrics/Indicators
Current Programs/Projects Status

And 2 attributes of the next CM that I believe need to be rock solid are Communication & Leadership skills. I've learned over the years the importance of Communication, communication, communication. I firmly believe there is no such thing as over-communication. When it comes to Leadership, the CM clearly needs to lead both the City and the Commission in terms of Strategy & Tactical execution. This is where the Organizational and Communication skills are most important.

Nemesis

Someone from the private sector is likely to lack that leftist outlook without which one won't even be considered.

OSUBuckeye59

Ah yes . . . politics.

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