Whitewater Council delays manager’s performance review

By Dave Fidlin

CORRESPONDENT

 

City Manager John Weidl’s employee performance review was scratched from the Common Council’s most recent meeting agenda after a narrow majority opted to postpone it to April 1.

Council member Patrick Singer, who attended the elected body’s most recent meeting virtually March 19 because he was unable to be there in person, made the motion for postponement. Singer received support for the delay from council members Brienne Brown, Lukas Schreiber and Lisa Dawsey Smith.

Council members Jill Gerber and Carol McCormick cast dissenting votes, as did Council President Neil Hicks.

The council’s March 19 agenda was frontloaded with a closed session agenda item on the city manager’s performance, followed by discussion and possible action on the agenda item in open session.

Singer cited “logistics and procedural things” as the basis for having a delayed special meeting on April 1.

“This is going to take a while. Obviously, there’s some need to meet in closed session to hear some information,” he said. “I just thought it was prudent to move it to the 1st. Then we can dedicate the whole meeting to that.”

In addition to expressing a desire to having everyone attend the meeting in person, Singer said he believed it was inconsiderate to public attendees to schedule a closed session agenda item at the beginning of a regular council meeting.

Council member Jill Gerber, who indicated she had unspecified information to share in closed session, adamantly opposed the delay.

Gerber pointed out there was public interest in what might take place, relative to the performance review, in open session after the closed session discussion. A council-represented attorney specializing in labor-related matters also was reportedly in the audience.

“I would not vote to move this closed session,” Gerber said. “I think I have waited, I think the public has waited – many people have waited for this closed session.”

Speaking to what she wanted to share with her elected colleagues behind closed doors, Gerber said, “If I’m the one with the information, then this needs to be done as soon as possible, and I’m wiling to share this with the council so we can move forward.”

Gerber also had suggested putting a time limit on the closed session agenda item and proceeding at the March 19 meeting, but did not receive majority support.

“We will most likely have additional meetings to follow,” Gerber said in her pitch to her fellow council members. “We can limit the time, as long as I can get some of it out today, if that is your concern.”

State statute gives local governing bodies the authority to meet in executive session, outside public view, on such personnel matters as performance reviews.

In explaining her rationale for postponement, Brown said, “It sounds like we still can’t make a decision in this closed session, so I don’t see how that has anything to do with people waiting for a decision. I think we should dedicate a whole meeting to it, instead of breaking it into pieces.”

 

Dawsey Smith said she was in favor of postponement because she believed it would be prudent for the full council to be in attendance in person.

“I would be supportive of delaying it until the full council can be here in person,” Dawsey Smith said. “It can be very difficult to hear everything that happens when you are attending remotely.”

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