Council moves closer to placing DPW supervisor under its control

DAVISON — Some members of city council want to place the Department of Public Works supervisor under their rule, for hiring and firing purposes, but the path to do so is in the hands of the attorneys.

The council considered a motion April 26 to remove the DPW supervisor from the city manager’s oversight, returning the position to one council would manage as it was 11 years ago.

Making that happen, however, has not been easy and has now landed in the hands of city attorneys who have been asked to draft an ordinance allowing the council to make that move after it was determined the council could not simply rescind the 2010 council action which placed the DPW supervisor under the city manager.

The proposal was brought up at the council’s goals and objectives meeting in February after Councilwoman Stacey Kalisz said she had spoken to DPW Supervisor Ed Brown and their conversation caused her to express concerns about why Brown’s position was the only department head who could be hired or fired by the city manager.

In March, Brown attempted to read a letter into the record at the council’s March 22 meeting which addressed the decision by the city administration to take back his city provided truck.

Mayor Tim Bishop denied Brown’s request, refusing to allow him to address his grievance with the council because he answers directly to City Manager Andrea Schroeder.

The Davison Index obtained the letter through the Freedom of Information Act and in it, Brown claimed Schroeder took the truck because she said she was instructed to do so by “her bosses” – implying the council had told her to.

“I, in no way, want to dismiss any of your concerns of me taking the truck home, if indeed it is council as a whole, I just feel I should have had the opportunity to present the reason I have the truck to the personnel committee,” he said in the letter. “Then, whatever their decision is on the issue it is presented to the full council like all other issues.”

To date, neither the administration nor the council has commented in the meetings addressing the matter why the truck was taken and who wanted it taken.

Brown said further in his letter the truck was given to him in lieu of a wage increase by the city and said further he is now considering moving up his plans for retirement.

Overall, since 2018, Brown claims in the letter he has saved the city $350,000, a feat he said “means nothing” to the administration, by its decision to take the truck.

At the April 26 meeting, Councilman Ron Emery questioned why there was contact between council and staff in the first place.

“It’s obvious a council member has had direct access to staff in violation of the charter,” said Emery. “This is interfering with the daily operations. We all got the letter and (Brown) has no business discussing that with us. He works for her (Schroeder).

“Someone crossed the line, either Ms. Kalisz or Mr. Brown,” he said.

Emery went on to question what the council knows about hiring and firing a DPW supervisor and suggested the council had no place in such matters.

“We don’t need to muck up this system that has worked since 1938 (when the city was incorporated),” he said.

Kalisz said she thinks the previous council should not have changed the ordinance and should have instead left the position under the control of city council.

“The supervisor is retiring,” she said of Brown. “How do you best fill that position? We hire and fire the clerk, city manager, treasurer and police chief. The only position we do not hire, and fire is this one. I’m not saying we should manage the day-to-day operations.”

She said the council can select a new DPW supervisor the same away it would other department heads – by looking at resumes, experience and education to see who’s best qualified.

“Seven (council members) can make that choice much better than one,” said Kalisz.

Councilwoman Jessica Abraham agreed, saying if the council can make decisions about hiring and firing a police chief, treasurer or clerk, which they can according to the charter, then why not the DPW supervisor?

“Whatever you call it, it’s no different than the police chief or other department heads,” she said. “It was never my intention to get involved in the day-to-day operations. This is the only position we can’t decide to hire or fire for…why is that?”

Attorney Ridley Nimmo said the decision goes back to the previous council that was recalled in 2010.

Members of that council made the decision to rescind the ordinance which had created the DPW director’s position so they could terminate his employment. That position was replaced with the DPW supervisor, which answered to the city manager instead of council.

Schroeder suggested the council tell the attorneys what they want and have them draw up a new ordinance to be considered at the May 10 meeting.

Both Emery and Councilman Chris Hinkley said they did not understand why a change needed to be made.

“We need a good, sound reason to do it,” said Emery.

The council voted 6-1 to instruct the city attorneys to draft an ordinance to present at the first council meeting in May. Hinkley was the sole dissenting vote.