Committee members spar over public works operations
BY KEVIN BONESKE
An item added to Tuesday’s Rhinelander Finance, Wage and Salary Committee meeting agenda added close to 45 minutes of heated discussion between the committee members.
At issue is the city’s organizational chart as it relates to the public works director and the water and street superintendents.
As laid out and previously approved by the City Council, the organizational chart places the public works director, Tim Kingman, as the direct supervisor of both the street superintendent, Tony Gilman, and water superintendent, Tom Roeser.
The application of that chain of command had been overridden without council approval last year by former city administrator Kristina Aschenbrenner, who temporarily placed herself as the direct supervisor of Gilman and Roeser instead of Kingman.
Given the personal and personnel issues in the departmental organization that continue to surface following Aschenbrenner’s ouster as city administrator, Kingman addressed the matter in an outline he went over with committee members.
The outline addressed “issues of concern” along with “required conditions” and also called for weekly progress meetings for the street and water superintendents as well as others as needed to attend.
Finance Committee member Tom Gleason, who also chairs the Public Works Committee, took exception with statements in the outline related to council members not being able to contact a superintendent without first involving the public works director.
“My interpretation of what this is saying is I can’t go out to the street department and talk to Tony about the (Public Works) agenda without Tim’s consent or his presence,” Gleason said. “I don’t think that’s the case. The street department is Tony’s responsibility, not Tim’s responsibility….
“I shouldn’t have to be told by the public works director if can go out to the street department and speak to the superintendent, whether I can do that or not.”
Finance Committee chairman Mark Pelletier took exception with Gleason’s comments.
“Tom, you can speak to anybody as an alderman, but who (the street superintendent) has to answer to is not your call,” said Pelletier, who also noted city employees have to follow the rules of the city.
Committee member Sherrie Belliveau said the council’s prior decision to have a public works director to oversee the water and street divisions has become a problem “so that people are going behind people’s backs and doing sneaky stuff.”
“Unless this committee and this council changes this chart, this chart needs to be followed,” Belliveau said. “And quit the monkey business.”
After Gleason noted the council could do whatever it wanted with the public works director position, Pelletier replied, “If you don’t have five votes, your idea ain’t worth ****.”
Belliveau said there wasn’t a problem with how the public works department ran until Aschenbrenner’s arrival as city administrator “and then everything went to hell in a handbasket, and I would like to know why.”
Gleason then described the problem as “micromanaging at its best, and micromanaging is a virus that needs to be eradicated from this city, or it will be the death of this city.”
After mayor Dick Johns mentioned he had received another complaint letter about Kingman, Belliveau and Pelletier both took exception with the mayor going public with that information.
“I think for you to mention names and talk about complaints in open session is clearly against what the mayor’s responsibilities are,” Belliveau said.
“All I said (is) there’s a letter,” Johns replied.
The committee took no action on changing the organizational chart, though Pelletier favored holding a closed session on the letter Johns received about Kingman at the committee’s Jan. 3 meeting.