The president of Walbridge Village Council says the vote by him and two other councilmembers to not excuse the absence of Mayor Dan Wilczynski from the Feb. 15 council meeting reflects an attempt to improve communication between council and the mayor’s office.
Ed Kolanko, who, as council president assumes the responsibilities of acting mayor when the mayor is out of town on personal business, said last week he’s repeatedly asked Mayor Wilczynski to provide his business travel schedule for him and others on council.
“I’ve asked for a travel itinerary. It’s not just council meetings. The mayor is out of town other days of the week too,” Kolanko said. “I think it’s only fair that council is made aware of that. Especially with the situation we’re in without a village administrator once again. My feeling is until we can get those travel schedules I’m not as willing to excuse the absences.”
Fred Sloyer and Jan Sawaya joined Kolanko in voting to not excuse the mayor’s absence while Pat Fox and Nathan Eikost voted to excuse him.
The mayor’s private sector job and its travel requirements were discussed during a candidate forum prior to the November election in which he was re-elected.
Responding to a question from resident Glenn Hecox, the mayor conceded his job had taken him out of town frequently and he missed on average one council meeting a month.
He has since changed jobs and anticipated being out of town no more than 20 weeks a year, the mayor said during the forum, noting he has been able to return calls to constituents quickly even when he was out of the village.
He told the residents he’s donated his mayoral salary of $7,200 back to the village.
The mayor last week said he notified Kolanko by email a week before the meeting he would be out of town on business the day of the council meeting. In general, he knows his travel schedule about one week ahead of time, he said.
“Unfortunately there is some bad blood and people are making issues out of things that aren’t issues,” the mayor said.
Kolanko and Sawaya both point to the hiring of Ken Gilsdorf in December as a part-time village administrator and his abrupt resignation on Feb. 2 as one example of a communication problem.
The minutes of the Dec. 12 council meeting say: “Mayor Wilczynski recommended to Council that Mr. Ken Gilsdorf be appointed to the Village Administrator position effective immediately with a pay rate of $100 a month until his retirement (from CSX) date of April 2012 and $10K a year salary as set by the pay ordinance after April 2012.”
Council then voted 4-2 to approve the appointment.
The minutes say the mayor will “take care of the pay ordinance at a subsequent meeting.”
Sawaya, who chairs council’s personnel and human resources committee, last week said council had no chance to interview Gilsdorf and discuss a salary with the mayor prior to the Dec. 12 meeting.
She cast her “no” vote on the appointment due to the lack of information from the mayor, she said, - and not because she believed Gilsdorf wasn’t the right person for the job.
After Gilsdorf was hired but before a salary ordinance received a third reading and was approved, the personnel/human resources committee met and discussed the responsibilities of the position and its pay level and decided to recommend council adopt a salary of $14,400 for the position.
Council on Jan. 18 unanimously approved the committee’s recommendation to amend the ordinance to include the $14,400 salary retro-actively and passed it. The mayor was absent from the meeting.
Sawaya said Gilsdorf had no input into the committee’s recommendation.
Ironically, Sawaya, who voted against his appointment, says Gilsdorf was very well qualified for the position and fulfilled his responsibilities and more. Now she says she’s doubtful the village will find someone as well suited for the job as Gilsdorf.
His brief letter of resignation dated Feb. 2 only says he decided to accept a job with a non-profit group he’s worked with for “many years.”
Kolanko last week said the process of having the salary discussed by the personnel committee first and then brought to council for a vote is the appropriate way for the administration and council to handle such village business.
The actions by the committee and council didn’t equate to giving Gilsdorf a raise, he said.
“Dan had discussed the pay with Ken but there was minimal discussion with the committee and council as far as an agreement,” Kolanko said. “The ordinance for the pay was to go through three readings. “It’s not fair to say council gave him a raise. We didn’t.”
Sawaya echoed that sentiment.
“There was no agreement on a salary,” she said.
Mayor Wilczynski said he felt as though council “went behind my back” on the salary issue.
He said last week he based the $10,000 salary figure on his estimation the administrator’s job would take about 2 hours a day – 25 percent of an 8-hour day – and he reviewed pay grades of full-time employees for comparison.
"I understand council’s position the job deserves more and Mr. Gilsdorf deserved more. But if someone agreed to a certain amount of money I don’t think it’s fiscally responsible to offer them more money. Especially when Mr. Gilsdorf was in the job 13 working days and was still on probation,” he said, adding the first two readings of the salary ordinance reflected the $10,000 figure.
Councilmembers also feel they were kept in the dark by the administration on a grant application to fund a study of a proposed regional emergency dispatch center in northern Wood County. If it comes to fruition, the center would service the village, Lake Township, and cities of Rossford and Northwood.
A $3,000 fee to retain Poggemeyer Design Group to assist with the grant application would be shared equally by the four entities, according to Lake Township Police Chief Mark Hummer, who has secured the township’s $750 share of the fee from the township trustees.
Mayor Wilczynski said after discussing the proposed dispatch center with Chief Hummer he forwarded information about the grant application to Mr. Sloyer, who chairs council’s safety committee.
But the mayor said he still wanted it to be reviewed by the village solicitor.
Mayor Wilczynski said he’s considered asking council to retain a consultant and hold a workshop on how communication can be improved.
“I’m reaching out to council and trying to figure how we can all get on the same page and take care of the village’s business,” the mayor said.