The Carbondale Observer

News and commentary about Carbondale, Illinois and SIUC

City Manager Controversy

with 4 comments

Looks like a controversy is brewing over the appointment of a new city manager. As far as I can tell, there are two pieces to this. One piece is the choice of current Director of Development Services and Acting City Manager Kevin Baity for the position. The other piece is Mayor Fritzler’s decision to issue a press release announcing “consensus” on the choice before the city council has formally voted on the appointment.

The choice of Baity for city manager has generated controversy because of doubts about his commitment to strict enforcement of Carbondale’s city code. Council member Jane Adams expressed her intention to vote against Baity’s appointment in an email to supporters on Wednesday. It appears that a majority of the council will vote to appoint Baity.

The other issue is Mayor Joel Fritzler’s decision to issue a press release announcing Baity’s appointment before the council has had a chance to formally vote on it. Council has discussed the appointment in closed session and a majority of council members, led by Fritzler, support hiring Baity. But until the full council has voted in open session, Baity is not appointed. That means it’s still premature to issue a press release announcing that he will be appointed.

The issue isn’t as simple as a premature press release. Council is allowed to discuss personnel matters in closed session, but is supposed to vote on them in open session. If the mayor has issued a press release announcing Baity’s appointment, that implies the appointment is a done deal. That, in turn, implies that a vote has been taken. And that would be a violation of the Open Meetings Act.

In her email on Wednesday, Adams said that she had advised Fritzler not to go ahead with the press release and that it might constitute a violation of the Open Meetings Act. Fritzler, who has sometimes acted in a high handed fashion since being elected mayor in 2011, chose to issue the press release anyway.

I’d be interested in knowing why Fritzler chose this course. I’d also be interested in knowing which council members supported Baity’s nomination and which opposed it. Since the 2011 election, we’ve had a pretty stable majority on the council, with Fritzler, Adams, Monty, and Fronabarger voting together. Clearly in this case Adams and Fritzler are on opposite sides. I’d like to know where Fronabarger and Monty stand.

Comments are welcome.

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Written by The Carbondale Observer

January 5, 2012 at 7:45 am

4 Responses

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  1. Shocking, Jane Adams finds a controversy! With people, gasp, not following the law! Something needs to be done asap, citizen groups, marches, heads must roll!

    Good grief, isn’t this like the third time in her one year in offce that Jane has got worked up over something and launched an email out to her campaign email list? Then the city in a professional manner goes about their business as if Jane “media hound” Adams doesn’t matter? I remember her getting a lot actually done on that whole apartment ordeal, oh wait, no, that was not actually doing something, that was just getting in the news…

    Jake

    January 5, 2012 at 9:10 am

  2. Jake, if you’re a regular reader you won’t be surprised to hear that I disagree with you about Adams. Specifically regarding the apartment ordeal, I think Adams’ calling attention to the problem with Campus Habitats did result in things getting done. The company was fined over $30,000 for code violations and is now out of business – at least in Carbondale. My understanding is that all the publicity resulted in Campus Habitats losing access to credit. So in this case, publicity worked. You can read the specifics on the Southern Illinoisan’s website: http://thesouthern.com/news/local/campus-habitat-leaving-carbondale/article_ce56c3ec-163b-11e1-aa05-001cc4c03286.html

    As for this particular issue, what other course would you recommend? We have a mayor preempting the council and potentially violating a state law. As a member of the council, Adams has a responsibility to the public, who elected her to serve as one of its stewards.

    Publicity is a good tool because most people generally don’t pay much attention to politics – and especially to local politics. Since local government operates mostly in obscurity, it’s often possible for local elected officials to get away with things that would attract media attention if attempted by a higher ranking official. When something is going on that the public ought to know about it’s the duty of public officials to alert the media.

    If you want to claim that Adams’ use of the media is for self-aggrandizement instead of for the benefit of the public who elected her, then you ought to produce some evidence.

    The Carbondale Observer

    January 5, 2012 at 6:00 pm

  3. Councilwoman Adams finds herself in the news because she is one of the most rock solid sources of information in the city. She approaches her facts and objectives in the same methodical manner that she honed her research as an researcher, scholar and professor.

    Jake makes it sound as if she has some sort of narcissistic desire to see her name published, but I think that couldn’t be further from the truth. The reality is that she is passionate about Carbondale and Southern Illinois in general.

    Of all the places she could have sought work, she returned to the college town closest to her childhood home and parent’s farm in Ava. She dedicated her research and scholarly activities to the southern Illinois region and delta, becoming one of the foremost experts in her field as a result of her passion to the area.

    To those that know her, this isn’t much of a surprise as her youth was completely dedicated to working for advancing the rights of those that whose rights didn’t amount to much. She was beat down by riot police, intimidated by federal investigators and chased out of towns by unwelcoming locals. So to see her stand up for the things she believes in isn’t a matter of wanting to be in the press, its a result of the courage gained from experiencing first hand what happens when thugs take over a town and dominate policy.

    That might sound like a lot, even surreal … but I guarantee that Jane is one of the few people that talks-the-talk and walks-the-walk. I think its fair to say that even if you disagree with her, calling her mischievous or unethical is out of the question.

    As for this particular issue, the local news doesn’t really do much of a job of covering politics unless it gets hand delivered to them. What the Mayor did was try to preempt a formalized decision and corner the news in his favor.

    One has to wonder what Fritzler’s intentions were by jumping the gun… as Niccolo Machiavelli wrote, “A wise ruler ought never to keep faith when by doing so it would be against his interests.”

    Everything I know about Baity is that he has been hostile to the community he serves, and negligent in his responsibilities. He has a curious and suspicious track record for performance, and that already should disqualify him from the position.

    Carbondale has suffered decades of underperforming city managers, and they are often allowed to continue serving in place with the excuse, “Oh… well, he’s going to retire soon anyhow.”

    Part of Adam’s campaign promises she made was to do whatever she could to help the city run efficiently and become competitive economically, financially, and with the quality of life as other peer cities — or better — are doing. By everything I’ve witnessed, she is doing her damnedest to make it happen, but unfortunately she runs into either continued complacency or self-serving “good ol’ boys.”

    Ace

    January 5, 2012 at 9:18 pm

  4. […] vote on the appointment of Kevin Baity as the new city manager. As I mentioned in last week’s post, there is some controversy surrounding the appointment. Council member Jane Adams has announced her […]


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