Councilors take puzzling stand on manager's review

Praise publicly; criticize privately.

That's a piece of employee management advice that has been around forever, and the Auburn City Council would do well to heed it.

At a very perplexing council meeting last week, members failed to get enough votes to go into an executive session to discuss City Manager Glenn Aho's review.

Two members had not filled out the review form, while another said she didn't turn one in "because I kept changing my answers."

Doing good employee reviews does take some thought and candor. An employer or manager usually needs to honestly answer some questions about the employee's performance over the past year, review accomplishments and set goals for the coming year.

This can be a lot of work for a supervisor with dozens of employees. But the Auburn council has only one: the city manager.

Aho welcomed the review and encouraged it, pointing out that he needed constructive feedback to improve his performance.

We certainly appreciate the desire of some councilors to avoid executive sessions, which are really another name for closed-door meetings.

Usually, as a newspaper, we are in the position of objecting to illegal secret meetings.

But, in the case of employee reviews, there is a legitimate exception in Maine law allowing for those discussions to be conducted behind closed doors.

Last week, the council needed five of seven votes to close the doors, but Councilors Belinda Gerry, Mike Farrell and Dan Herrick all voted against it.

That's unfortunate, because employees thrive on feedback from their employer. Performance suffers when goals and expectations are not discussed.

This has been a time of unprecedented challenges for the city of Auburn and for municipalities across the state.

State revenue sharing has been slashed, leaving towns and school districts making deep cuts and raising taxes.

And that's the part that sticks in the council's collective craw. They have been forced up against the wall by state cuts and stuck with the distasteful prospect of raising taxes to preserve basic services.

It has been a very bad time to be a town councilor or selectman, and an even worse time to be school superintendent or municipal manager.

Some people and organizations rally and pull together in a crisis. The Auburn council has spent its time splintering and bickering.

At times, the council has seemed angry about the process and determined to take its wrath out on the person closest at hand,  namely Aho.

The council has shown a tendency to demand that things be done without providing the collective input or leadership to do them.

The failure of some members to do a simple employee review is the latest example of the problem.

It's called Leadership 101, and some councilors seem to be failing the course.

editorialboard@sunjournal.com

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Comments

Jerome Young's picture

What a bad spot for all.

What a bad spot for all. Councilors Herrick, Gerry, and Farrell were elected to break down, peruse, challenge every dollar spent. Remember the tax revolt a few years ago. We needed to cut the waste. In the first year they did it, small perhaps, but my tax bill went down. Mr Aho responded to his bosses, and he made it happen, not an easy thing to do. The Baldacci Administration got reelected years ago with less votes than TABOR. The Admin said "we heard you loud and clear." No new taxes. The problem is.....they didn't raise "state" taxes per se' They just cut the money normally sent to the cities and towns.....sooooo our cities were cut short. Our councilors and our city manager had HUGE fiscal shortfalls. Quite a burden. I applaud Mr Aho's work. I also applaud our councilors who never hold back. The difference is just approach, and can be quite contentious. And abrasive. But this is not a bad thing. The best decisions are made this way. These three councilors have alot more on the ball then what appears on TV or in the press. So, having known all for years, there must be more to this than we are seeing. I think, those three should do the eval and if they have complaints, let him have it. From what I have seen Mr Aho will defend himself very well. This lack of evaluation is going to get in the way of decisions that need to made, so for ***** sake do it. Baldacci will leave office with over a billion in structural deficits, guess what? After he has his vaca in FRANCE in October, How much money will the state cost shift to propery taxes in 2011? So...we need a plan. I guess TABOR was not as drastic as advertised. Thanks LSJ for this forum.

Joe Gray's picture

Not the whole story

The council went into executive session a number of times regarding Mr Aho's review and contract prior to this council meeting. The councilors opposed to going into executive session weren't just trying to be jerks, they had said what they needed to say prior to this meeting. This all came out after the meeting when the councilors are talking among themselves. If you would attend a meeting, you could have a clearer picture of the way this council works.

The editorial board of this newspaper seems intent on dividing the Auburn council by distorting and/or omitting pertinent facts. Please check the minutes of meetings or call the councilors or city manager to find the truth prior to venting here...it just takes a few minutes...

 's picture

This reads more like it was

This reads more like it was written by one of Joe's assistants could it be Pat?

Joe Gray's picture

It is in public

Tron, the councilors usually chat among themselves or to constituents while they are getting their things together to leave after the meetings. They are not holding private meetings. City business is being done in public. I am not a councilor, just a member of the public who attends meetings. They are not "making deals" as you state, just shooting the breeze. Why don't you attend a meeting and not just be an amrchair councilor. I'd love to see you there...

Richard Begin's picture

XYZ again you seem lost

Tron you have it right. I could never understand the reason for Executive session. It's suggessts that we are not mature enough to handle the truth.

Richard Begin's picture

Sun journal needs to get it right for once

get rid of farrell & herrick and try to council Belinda.Next time the Sun Journal writes a story slow down do a fact check get it right before you get it wrong

Ed Enos's picture

Tron, I wonder how long it

Tron, I wonder how long it would take to slander someone at a performance review of a public employee. About 15 secs I bet.

Ed Enos's picture

Completely true thinkingman.

Completely true thinkingman. When was the last time anyone had a review in public or why would you want one on public?

DANNY FITZSIMMONS's picture

The Journal FAILs to think

The Journal FAILs to think that gee we are the employers the entire city not just the council it is we the city that PAYS EVERY CITY MEMBER (overpayed) and we should all have a voice at thier preformance meeting!! i guess the paper just wants to be on good terms to cities fathers most likely to get good access to news within the city well why not after alll corruption is par the course in the area right.

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