>Albion City Manager Mike Herman survived with his job intact following an hour-and-a-half executive session discussing his possible dismissal Monday night.
The city attorney did not.
Council voted 4-3 to terminate the services provided by Robison Law Office — which has served the city for more than 30 years — after discussing the attorney’s evaluation behind closed doors.
“Based on the evaluation I hold in my hand, the numbers are physical and tangible right here …this comes with well-reasoned thought, and if we were allowed I would love to give copies of (the evaluation) to each citizen,” said councilman Maurice Barnes Jr. who initiated the motion. “This is what my research and homework has shown from me.”
Herman said Charles Robison and his colleagues have always “given him advice when asked and maintained a good working relationship” and he would not have recommended for council to discontinue the firm’s contract.
Cheryl Krause, Andrew French and Andy Zblewski voted against the motion.
French said he was concerned about problems that could be incurred with “active city cases.”
Zblewski said the method of evaluating Robison was fair, but he is perplexed about the process council chose to find a replacement.
“I’m kind of worried we have fired our city attorney with really no set guidelines of how we’re going to replace him,” he said. “It would have been nice to have something in place before hand because now we no longer have a city attorney after 90 days.”
With respect to Herman, council gave him an affirmative vote of confidence, 7-0, to continue his current contract as originally negotiated.
The council chambers were standing-room only once word got out that Mayor Joe Domingo had requested an executive session to evaluate Herman’s personnel decisions and consider “the dismissal, suspension or disciplining of” the city manager.
Sixteen people spoke on Herman’s possible removal during the citizen’s comment section — 12 in favor of Herman’s retention, two in favor of his removal and two who were neutral.
“We had a long, lengthy discussion in executive session, we always do, and at this point they’ve decided apparently they’re not ready to make a change,” Herman said. “I think what we agreed to tonight is to improve communication and maybe change the issues that are raised so they’re not raised in a negative way, but raised in a positive way. Whether or not that will happen, I don’t know.”
Herman admitted its difficult to “carry out a new vision” in the city, as people often prod him to, when the last “eight or nine years” has been focused on trying to maintain public service levels and city employees.
Albion resident Marcus Trammel said he was confused recently to see Albion didn’t participate in a community development grant called the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, which provided Kalamazoo with nearly $15 million and Battle Creek with roughly $9 million.
“I thought it was the perfect opportunity for Albion to participate in the program and get funding, several million dollars perhaps,” he said. “When I approached the city administration about why we didn’t participate, they stated, ‘too much paperwork.’”
Herman said the grant had “a lot of strings attached” that would have been difficult to navigate without a city Planning Department, and the city was partnering with Community Action to apply for similar grants.
As published in the Jackson Citizen Patriot on May 17, 2011