Update: Score cArd for city manager cites shortcomings

Matt Westerhold
Aug 18, 2013

Update: Sandusky city commissioner Diedre Cole sent the city a finalized version of a performance evaluation for city manager Nicole Ard that suggests Ard has failed to meet expectations across a broad spectrum of job responsibilities.  

Cole said she used a formatted evaluation form incorporating the job goals established when Ard was hired, and also used the charter officer evaluation form the city has used in the past. The evaluation cites numerous issues and includes an action plan for improvement, she said. The review she submitted also includes information from notes she took during a closed-door commission meeting with Ard earlier this month, contrasting her responses to the issues raised. 

Cole also said some fellow commissioners are soft-pedaling Ard's shortcomings and "dumbing down" the review process.    

"Ignoring this is not a good option. The city has serious challenges and tough choices ahead. Commission cannot turn a blind eye to these problems," she said. "Answering phones and taking recreation department reservations is not what the city's CEO and top-paid employee should be doing. What's the hourly rate at $126,000 a year?"  

"It's $61 an hour," Cole said, after quickly tapping a calculator to come up with the number. 

The Register has requested copies of the evaluation prepared by Cole and an earlier evaluation submitted by commissioner Wes Poole, and other reviews and drafts from other commissioners for city charter officers.

Cole also told the Register her mother died on Saturday. She has been commuting back and forth from North Carolina for some time helping her family care for her mother and said the funeral will be this week.   

She also said she intends to be a write-in candidate on the Nov. 5 ballot. Her mother's illness and working to get her family in North Carolina situated caused her to miss the deadline to file a candidate's petition, but can still file as a write-in candidate.

"I want to try a different approach," she said. 


Original Post, Aug. 16, 5:51 a.m. 

Two Sandusky city commissioners submitted performance review evaluations for city manager Nicole Ard that pinpoint what they say are areas in need of improvement. 

But the majority coalition on commission has adopted a wait-and-see approach to letting the public in on the score card for Ard and appear to be ignoring the information submitted.

Commissioner Wesley Poole provided a three-page evaluation form, and commissioner Diedre Cole filed a 23-page draft evaluation. Cole said she is finishing her forms and plans to include the notes she took during the Aug. 12 closed meeting commissioners conducted with Ard for the review. 

Both Poole and Cole used the job goals established by commission when Ard was hired in late 2011 for their evaluations, determining that she failed to meet some of  the goals and calling for an action plan to get back on track.

A Register special report in January based on a public records review and other information determined that none of the goals had been met. Ard declined to respond to questions from the Register while the reporting was being researched before it published and has not offered any response to it since it was published. Some of the goals appear to have been accomplished since that January report, which prompted the current review process by commissioners.

Commissioner Julie Farrar said her experience will guide her through the process. 

"Until the evaluation is totally complete and all parties have signed off on it, it is a work in progress," Farrar said, adding that she didn't take notes during the closed meeting with Ard.

Commissioner Jeff Smith, Farrar, ex officio mayor John Hamilton and commissioner Keith Grohe all discarded the evaluation submitted by Poole, and did not secure it as a public document. Cole's evaluation was filed with an email.

Hamilton told the Register "nobody really wanted" the forms Poole submitted. It's not clear how each commissioner's individual reviews will be incorporated into the final narrative of Ard's review to which Farrar referred, or why the commissioners refused to include Poole's viewpoint in the process. 

Ard has hired an attorney to guide her through the review process with commissioners, Grohe said. She replied to a recent inquiry from the Register about that and other questions but did not answer the questions asked.

"Sandusky is a special community in which to live and work, and I look forward to continuing my work with the Commissioners and on behalf of the residents," Ard wrote in her reply.

Performance reviews by commissioners for law director Don Icsman and finance director Hank Solowiej have been completed. The Register has requested copies of these reviews, drafts and other evaluation forms, documents and public record submitted during the earlier process.  

The city never followed up on the evaluation and review service that was part of the contract with the firm hired in 2011 to set the job goals and assist in the search for a new city manager. It was never explained how that contract provision was lawfully "waived" by commissioners, or why, but Smith suggested the review process currently underway is well-in-hand. 

"This will be my first evaluation of the city manager. However, due to my professional history, I am not a stranger to evaluation process," Smith wrote in an email to the Register.



Areas in need of improvement?? Say it isn't so!! Like we didn't see this one coming.


The commissioners have an obligation to make their evaluations public. Secret meetings? Destroyed documents?


all employee evaluations and disciplines are done in executive session which are closed door sessions and NOT open to the public. That's the law.


Why does Ard feel a need to lawyer up; it is only an evaluation. The evaluation must be worst then we thought. I never heard of someone hiring a lawyer for an evaluation. Mr. Pool should have handed in his evaluation by e-mail like Ms. Cole did so it couldn't be destroyed and it would be well documented. It is still not too late for him to do an e-mail and get it on the record. Who has the right to destroy someone else's evaluation unless people are trying to protect Ms. Ard. Some commissioners are certainly busy looping through the legal loop holes. Cole has a 23 page document? Wow, this going to get interesting. The commissioners are sure dragging their feet on the evaluation and it is still not done. I still think that destroying the document makes for a legal problem because Mr. Poole share the note so destroying it doesn't make any difference, others did receive it and the commissioners who destroyed a public document could be in trouble for destroying a public document.


if you are evlauating an employee under contract you MUST stick to their contract and their job description when you evaluate them. You cannot go beyond that scope. Any good human resources manager will tell you the same thing. A 23 page document isn't needed, nor is some obscure document. You have to stay within the framework of the contract and the job description. No wonder she brought a lawyer. Obviously two commissioners don't understand that already.


"other duties as assigned" Ever hear of that catch all? I don't worry about Ms Ard if her time is isn't over this summer when the new commission sits she doesn't have a prayer.

Forward Looking

Because the Register will make a bigger deal out of it than it needs to be and spin it in a manner that will require her to get lawyer to cover her butt.


what makes the SR think they have the right to evaluate any public offical? They are a news reporting agency, not the evaluation committee of the city. That is the responsibility of the commissioners and them only as to Ms Ard. It sounds as usual like the commissioners can't agree on how to proceed and the right hand doesn't know what the left is doing. Ms Ard has a contract with the city, therefore any evaluation would have to be within the scope of that contract I would think. If she is making mistakes, tell her specifically what they are within the scope of her job title and what the commissioners expect her to do to straighten them out. She answers to the commissioners...not the SR. If the Commissioners are dissatisfied with her work, they need to tell her what they think based on her job performance as stated in her contract and her job description....nothing more, nothing less. That should be pretty clear. Page after page of non descript rehtorict doesn't mean a thing if it doesnt coincide with a job description form and a job contract. What two commissioners want to pound her for on behalf of anyone else doesn't matter. That means nothing if it doesn't fit the job description part.

Matt Westerhold

Thanks gramafun, but some information you are posting is not accurate. A public contract does not supersede the Ohio Revised Code or other laws. The article mentions the reviews submitted follow the job goals and responsibilities that were spelled out for the city manager. City commissioners are conducting this evaluation, not the Register. The Register has a right to review the information and evaluate it just as you have a right to assess the city manager, the Register, or any other thing of interest to you. In this case, the Register's January report, 'Score cARD" was published simply as a review of the city's top-paid employee after a year on the job.  


From the sight of her posting, one can only hope gramafun is not a current City Commissioner


Matt, would you be able to please republish the Goals?

Reviewing Ms. Ard against the Goals should be straight forward: Either she was Outstanding in delivering to a Goal, Successful, or performed Below Expectations. If she consistently scored Below Expectations, her overall Review results should then reflect that.

As for Ms. Ard hiring a Lawyer, perhaps she fears the Review results will be unfavorable. I could see where in at least one instance she would contest, the one area being where she delivered a one-page, hand written note showing cost reductions in specified departments to meet a Budget shortfall. Ms. Ard might argue she delivered a revised Budget as required. The feedback would be where she missed in meeting expectations was the deliverable required was a more detailed budget showing not only department reductions, but the timeline and plan to meet each reduction, potential risks as a result of the reductions, and possible mitigation plans to address the risks.

Again, all current available data clearly points to Ms. Ard having consistently performed Below Expectations.


Matt, while we have you on here would mind answering the question that was asked of you last week. In case you forgot it goes something like this: How many minorities work at the SR?

Matt Westerhold

There are no positions at the Sandusky Register that are publicly funded with taxpayer dollars. The Register has a very diverse staff, overall, but I don't have an exact head count. There are presently no African Americans working in the newsroom. Give me a call if you'd like to talk more about this. (419) 609-5866. 



Thanks for answering Matt. Much appreciated. However, public funds or not you should not chastise those for which you do the same.

Carlos Danger

Definition of a Hypocrite - "A person who engages in the same behaviors he condemns others for." - not attacking anyone or any publication in particular, just providing a definition, so please don't ban me ... again.

Forward Looking

Evaluate or Spin? If the Register evaluated and didn't spin it to make news it would be another story. Do we have a newspaper or a gossip rag in this town?


I think we are saying the same thing in different words. A job description IS what the public contract would be would it not? I believe that is exactly what I said. You are saying the same thing in different words. She has to follow her contract or job description to know what to do (whichever you want to call it) and on that they must evaluate her. This isn't rocket science. No wonder she had an attorney present if they didn't know what to evaluate her with.

Your paper may have the right to see the information and read it, but you have only the right to report unbaisedly what you then see and read. That is all. It is the commissioners score card that means something. It is their job to do something about the evauation. Given the atmosphere around Ms Ard no wonder she brought the protection of an attorney to the evaluation.

Since Ms Cole and Mr. Poole seem to contact you so much, perhaps you could answer a question for some of us......why is it always the two of them who are in the "questioning " position away from the group so much and not with the "group" as much and why? Just wondering as they always seem to be in the opposing or troubling position so much of the time.

doggie mom

Once again Cole had to be in the story and by the serious difference in a 3 page to a 23 page filing...who likes to hear or read their own voice?


Well said




Let's not get our daily exercise by jumping the gun . . .

Perhaps Ms. Cole is a very detail-oriented person and thus the 23-page evaluation. I have quite literally written hundreds of employee evaluations over the years. Whereas I have a goal of no more than 2 pages, perhaps Ms. Cole has gone into considerable depth as she believes that is what is warranted. I'm guessing the 23 page report could be easily condensed to less than 5 pages, if even that many. Still, I'd rather see a 23 page report, no matter how detailed, versus something like a 1 paragraph report.


Maybe Cole and Poole are the problem?


I am beginning to wonder that myself. It seems whenever there is a problem, it is their names that POP up.


I'd like to give Cole a 23 page evaluation of how to get off public assistance and get a real job.

I'd hire a lawyer too, if someone who has never been in the work force has the authority to criticize my employment history!


I personally don't Care if Cole is on Section 8, 9, 10 or 100 assistance. I'd take 3 more of her to replace the 3 bumbling, stumbling buffoons City Commissioners promoting their personal agendas or the agendas of the town's swindlers. Cole and Poole are the only two willing to take an in-depth look at issues facing the City from Hoppers Mobile Home Park, the Big Brother police car cameras and now the City Manager job review.


you seem to always have something negative to say about anything the city commissioners do. Have you something of value that YOU would do about all that you complain about? I would truly love to hear you ideas. Go right ahead.


At least Cole is apparently willing to work at SOMEthing! Now if only she'd expend such efforts so that the rest of us didn't have to support her and hers the REST of the time!


AMEN why not show up with legal council when the atmosphere in which you work is as hostile as the one in which Ms Ard is forced to work? When you know that at least TWO of the council people are "out to get you" and openly show it.


Go get them Dick Tracy very accurate statement


There is no reason to lawyer up if the manager is performing the service that is expected of the manager for the kind of pay that is being rendered for the job description. There must be more going on.