City manager receives high marks from council

Issue of council evaluating police chief, treasurer raised

DAVISON — City Manager Andrea Schroeder received a favorable evaluation by the city council, at its meeting Aug. 24.

The evaluation, done by the mayor and members of council, looked at several areas of performance in the city manager’s job and she was given high marks, overall.

“It’s obvious the council has a highly favorable opinion of Mrs. Schroeder based on the scoring and comments,” said Mayor Tim Bishop. “Looking at the aggregate scores, its actually kind of hard to pinpoint any certain areas of improvement. If she basically keeps doing what she does and has been, it appears that council will also keep doing (what) they do and work in tandem to the city, its residents and employees.”

The evaluation looked at several areas of the city manager’s job performance and she was graded on a points system. The resulting totals were:

• Professional Skills – 22.9 out of 25

• Relations with Council – 23.23 out of 25

• Policy Execution – 32 out of 40

• Reporting – 14.5 out of 15

• Citizen Relations – 27.66 out of 30

• Employee Relations/Supervision – 31.33 out of 35

• Fiscal Management – 18.57 out of 20

The evaluation considered the top priorities of the city manager to be fiscal responsibility, community engagement and employee training and relations.

“I think it was good we all submitted our forms and questionnaires with an average of approximately 90 percent approval,” said Councilman Ron Emery. “I think we’re really lucky to have Andrea as our city manager. She bright, she’s strong, she’s forceful and she’s a lifelong Davison resident – you can’t ask for much more than that. Good job.”

Councilwoman Jessica Abraham asked if the evaluation was done annually, to which Bishop said it wasn’t done on a fixed schedule, but that the council tried to evaluate her performance approximately every two years.

This year, he said the council wanted an evaluation done before the elections I the fall because three council members will be outgoing.

Abraham then asked if the council evaluates all department heads, to which Bishop answered no, because those evaluations are done by the city manager.

“We only do that with the city manager because she’s the only one who directly answers to us,” Bishop explained. “(Schroeder) evaluates the department heads.”

Schroeder said the council could change it so they perform evaluations of department heads – which would include the police chief and treasurer, but it would require a change to council policy.

“Some cities do, some cities do not,” she said. “Everybody is different. Some evaluate the city manager, the police chief and the treasurer because they are all hired and could potentially be let go by the city council.”

Abraham also asked if the department heads have contracts with the city council, which Schroeder said they did not. Only Schroeder has a contract, the rest of the department heads may have letters of agreement, but nothing more.

Abraham said she was concerned employees like the chief and treasurer could be let go by a council with “an axe to grind” and thought protection in the form of a contract would be a wise move.

“So, we as a city employ the chief of police, but we do not have a contract with him? Or evaluate him?” said Abraham. “I’ve come into contact enough with the police to say I feel like we should have a contract with our chief of police. Maybe that’s just the way the world is right now. We could have a big change on city council.”

Schroeder said there is no real protection offered by a contract, saying she and the department heads are all consider “at-will” employees who can be let go for any reason at any time with just four votes of the council – a majority.

“They can fire me at any time with four votes. I’d be gone, even with the contract I have,” she said. “We all serve at will, even with a contract.”

Abraham made a motion to send the idea of a contract for department heads, specifically for the chief of police, to the city’s personnel committee. The motion was seconded by Councilman Ben Callis.

Bishop said he did not think this was a good time to set something like this in motion with council elections in November and with one of the members of the personnel committee leaving after that election.

Councilman Chris Hinkley said he thinks the city’s strong city manager, weak council form of government makes the issue of the council evaluating department heads and offering contracts unnecessary.

“I’m confused on the reason why; it seems to me to be counter to efficiency with our form of government. I anticipate a time when you may have a council, with a handful of members, with axe to grind, who might come into a meeting and make a motion take somebody’s job – it’s similar to a situation we’ve had in the past,” said Hinkley. “With a responsible person to run our day to day operations being our go-to person to handle any concerns with have (with department heads) that may be a more efficient and fair way to handle that.”

“I feel the exact same way, only on the other end,” said Abraham. “I don’t want to see a longstanding police chief lose a job because of the city council.”

The council voted 5-2 against sending the issue to the personnel committee, Abraham and Callis being the only votes in favor.

Councilwoman Leigh LaForest told Abraham she should make the personnel committee aware of her concerns so they can consider options in the future.

“All have been outstanding in their four positions and I think a majority of our community would stand behind that,” said LaForest of the department heads and city manager. “If you have something specific you have an issue or concern with, write it down or send it to the personnel committee so they can take a look at it.”