Palestine may change manager evaluations

EAST PALESTINE – The village may change the way it evaluates its manager.

Continuing a discussion that began when Gary Clark was still manager, Councilman Alan Cohen said guidelines are needed for annual reviews, and those reviews should be established by ordinance, not employment agreements.

Included in Clark’s and new manager Pete Monteleone’s employment agreements were that evaluations will be conducted each year in October.

The agreements state the criteria for evaluations is to be determined by the manager and the village, and can be changed from time to time. Once completed, they are to be provided to the manager by the village solicitor and the manager is allowed to discuss them with council.

The agreements also call for council and the manager to define goals and performance objectives necessary for the operation of East Palestine.

Clark’s goals were laid out in the form of a resolution council adopted in 2003. He was hired in 2001 and quit in April 2012, and prior to quitting provided copies of his and former manager’s employment agreements and evaluations to the Journal. He provided the documents to show that with the exception of some, council gave him generally favorable reviews.

Agreements provided were for Kim Haws, Patricia Quigley and John “Kenny” Francis and included the same paragraph regarding performance evaluations, giving the same authority to the manager and council.

Cohen noted during the meeting evaluations are not required under village charter, which has no law regarding evaluations at all.

Solicitor Shirley Smith said council could opt to do away with evaluations altogether, but they didn’t appear to favor that idea.

“I want to make it clear, I don’t have any objection to doing an evaluation, but as it stands now, when you talk about employer-employee relationships and all the possibilities of what can go wrong, I think we need some definite guidelines with how to proceed with this on a yearly basis no matter who is on council and no matter who is the manager,” Cohen said.

Councilman Don Elzer said it would be a “huge mistake” to do away with them. “This is probably politically incorrect, but I’ve seen what happens when we don’t.”

That evaluations weren’t conducted on a yearly basis during the 11 years Clark was manager was brought up during council discussions before he quit.

He and his wife Cindy, who was administrative assistant at the time, both quit in the midst of speculation over their job performance.

At that time Elzer, Councilwoman Endia Wisser and Councilman Fran Figley suggested council meet in executive session to discuss Gary Clark’s performance specifically, but the session never happened because the charter says the manager shall attend all council meetings.

They wanted to talk about him without him in the meeting, and Clark said he would be willing to sit in on the closed door session with them to discuss their concerns, but they wanted to discuss the matter in private.

Elzer and Councilman Jim Tyger asked again on Monday if council could meet alone to discuss the manager’s performance.

Cohen referred them back to the employment agreements, which state the evaluations are to be provided to the solicitor and then made available to the manager, who could opt to discuss them with council.

He suggested council pass an ordinance setting specific guidelines for evaluations and goals that can be used in the future. “Let’s not assume we are all going to be here and Pete is always going to be here,” he said.

No formal action was taken.