Controversy already surrounds the hiring of Sandusky’s new city manager several weeks before he even begins.
Several city commissioners voiced concerns about certain clauses pertaining to Eric Wobser’s four-year agreement during Tuesday’s public meeting.
Ultimately, commissioners voted 6-1 to approve Wobser’s four-year contract, starting on July 7, which pays him at least $120,000 a year.
Among the concerns:
• Clause No. 1: If city commissioners vote to fire Wobser anytime up until July 2018, then officials — by using local taxpayer funds — must purchase his home at fair market value if he can’t sell his house within a four-month period after getting terminated.
• Commissioner expressing this concern: Naomi Twine, the lone dissenting official to cast a "no" vote.
• Opinion: “If there ever was a time we would have to terminate Mr. Wobser, then I don’t think it’s in the right interest of taxpayers to purchase this house,” Twine said. “We just got through trying to salvage layoffs for firefighters. We have to pave streets, trim trees (and do more on limited funding). If we have to fire a city manager and purchase the house, it just does not send the right message.”
• Counter reaction: “I don’t have a problem with it,” commissioner Julie Farrar said. “I think that this commission would probably think harder and look longer into doing what they can to retain an employee if they know they are going to have to buy the house back. If I have to spend taxpayer dollars to buy back a house from someone we are going to fire, then I think we would be more apt to work with him. It keeps us working with the city manager.”
• Clause No. 2: Wobser can earn as much as $136,000 annually from July 7, 2015, onward if he completes certain tasks revolving around economic development, neighborhood revitalization and other benchmarks. His base salary totals $120,000 a year.
• Commissioner expressing this concern: Wes Poole.
• Opinion: “I believe that in a civil service-type (job) to the community, incentives to government employees are pretty much inappropriate,” Poole said. “We are not here for profit. Having a profit motive for doing good work is not something I’m supportive of. I’m just opposed to incentives.”
• Counter reaction: Incentives “are something I’m particularly fond of,” Sandusky ex officio mayor Dennis Murray Jr. said. “It’s something of a best practice these days, but it will have to be something that commission and Mr. Wobser must work out.”
City manager contract details
Newly appointed city manager Eric Wobser and city commissioners recently agreed to a new four-year contract, starting on July 7 and running through July 2018.
Wobser — who grew up in Sandusky and Perkins Township but graduated from Edison High School in 1997 — resigned from his post at Ohio City Inc., a nonprofit company overseeing community development in a vibrant neighborhood near Cleveland. During the past five years, Wobser spearheaded initiatives to reduce blight and promote business development.
Among the contract’s major highlights, Wobser stands to:
•Earn no less than $120,000 a year.
•Receive as much as $136,000 annually, from July 7, 2015, onward if he completes certain yearly benchmarks set for him. The criteria for bonus pay revolves around Wobser developing, spearheading and implementing goals based on four city topics: economic and neighborhood development; financial management and budgeting; regional collaboration; and communications, marketing and community engagement.
•Obtain health insurance all other city employees can subscribe to.
•Acquire 15 paid administrative leave days — which can be used on vacation, sick leave or personal time, among other reasons — in the first full year he works for Sandusky. Any days not used up until July 2015 can’t carryover into future years and will be forfeited.
•Amass the amount of vacation time and other perks that a 14-year city employee would normally receive after working one full year. This is mainly for vacation purposes. He stands to receive three weeks of vacation time in his second year. He can then accrue and save any unused time in accordance with Sandusky’s bylaws. In the contract’s third and fourth years, Wobser can receive four weeks of vacation each year.
•Reap $6,000 annually for reimbursements related to education, professional development and membership fees.
•Collect $10,000 to cover relocation costs when he eventually moves into Sandusky.