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City manager review sparks spat between council members

City manager review sparks spat between council members

Ted Howze

POSTED November 12, 2010 10:48 p.m.

By a vote of 4-0, the Turlock City Council gave City Manager Roy Wasden an “exemplary” performance review in closed session Tuesday night.

That vote was 4-0, rather than 5-0 or 4-1, as Councilwoman Mary Jackson left following the regular meeting and did not attend the closed session review, drawing the ire of some fellow council members.

“I think it’s very unprofessional from a standpoint that, as council members, we only have two employees,” said Councilman Ted Howze. “They rely on us for their reviews for their employment. When you blatantly refuse to participate, how are the employees that are doing the taxpayers’ business supposed to judge what their bosses gauge their performance as?”

The Turlock City Council hires and directs only two employees at the City of Turlock – Wasden and City Attorney Phaedra Norton. Per employment contracts, the City Council provides an annual performance review for each employee.

Before retiring to Wasden’s closed session review on Tuesday, Mayor John Lazar proposed that the council forego the formal review, instead meeting one-on-one with the City Manager to discuss his performance. Lazar said he had spoken with Jackson prior to the meeting and learned that she didn’t feel well, and also that she believed the newly elected council should be tasked with reviewing Wasden.

“I thought we could come to some agreement as to how to proceed,” Lazar said.

Wasden was hired in June 2009. He last had an annual performance review on Jan. 13, as he agreed to a six-month performance review upon being hired and a 12-month review thereafter.  The Turlock City Council was not required to review Wasden’s performance again until Jan. 13.

Spycher, however, said a precedent had been set for an outgoing council to review a city manager’s performance. Shortly before Spycher joined the council in 2006, he said the sitting council had reviewed then-City Manager Tim Kerr, as they had experience with Kerr which new council members would not. Spycher said he specifically asked Wasden to move up the review to Tuesday’s meeting so he could participate in the group review.

Jackson supported the idea of one-on-one reviews as proposed by Lazar, but Vice Mayor Kurt Spycher, Councilwoman Amy Bublak, and Howze preferred moving forward with the group review. Jackson left immediately following the close of the open meeting.

Jackson declined to comment on personnel or closed session matters.

Jackson’s early departure “frustrated” Spycher, who introduced a rule earlier this year banning the practice of abstaining from city council votes, requiring either a yes or no. Spycher said he was driven to that action because Jackson abstained from voting on Norton’s June 22 review.

“My hope was that by removing that option it would require participation, and then she just chose to walk out of the next meeting,” Spycher said. “… I was very frustrated that (Jackson) chose –and it was a choice – not to part in (Wasden’s) review. “

Spycher said he’s seen the value in performance reviews during his term in office. He said it provides the council an opportunity to talk about the good and bad openly, and is beneficial for employees to receive feedback on how they are doing in their jobs.

“In our role as council members, we only have two employees that work for us, the City Manager and the City Attorney,” Spycher said. “As our contract requires every 12 months for us to review their performance, it’s the least we can do.”

To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.

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