Committee backs City Council investigation of public works employment conditions
Motion follows recent resignations of two employees
BY KEVIN BONESKE
In the wake of the recent resignations of two city public works employees, street superintendent Tony Gilman and street maintenance worker Jeremy Walker, Rhinelander’s Public Works Committee split 3-2 Monday to ask the full City Council to conduct an investigation into the employment conditions at the public works department as they relate to the department’s director, Tim Kingman.
Given the two employees’ departures at about the same time, committee chairman Tom Gleason called for forwarding the matter to the City Council for some type of investigation.
“Eventually, it’s going to have to go through (the City) Council anyway,” Gleason said.
Committee member Steve Sauer, who backed Gleason’s recommendation and also noted he spoke with city attorney Carrie Miljevich, said he was informed by Miljevich that it would be “completely reasonable to do a six-month review in closed session” of Kingman.
Gilman resigned after more than 19 years as a city of Rhinelander employee to become the street superintendent in Baraboo. In his resignation letter, Gilman made reference to problems with the “current workplace culture,” though he didn’t blame anyone for that specifically by name.
However, he had a rocky relationship with Kingman, Gilman’s direct supervisor, with that relationship having generated heated discussion at some city committee meetings in recent months when the issue of the city’s organizational chart was brought up. And in late 2015, then-city administrator Kristina Aschenbrenner had temporarily placed herself, instead of Kingman, as the direct supervisor of Gilman and water superintendent Tom Roeser.
At a city Finance, Wage and Salary Committee meeting last December, when the organizational chart was being discussed, Mayor Dick Johns mentioned he received another complaint letter about Kingman. A member of both the Finance and Public Works committees, Sherrie Belliveau, said those complaints weren’t provided to her so that they could have been dealt with at that time.
“How many times are we going to beat this around without actually having some progress?” Belliveau asked. “Because, quite frankly, I’m tired of being accused of not doing my job when I don’t know what the hell is going on.”
Belliveau said the city administrator is responsible for handling employment matters, for which she blamed Aschenbrenner for not doing that job for months. Aschenbrenner’s contract as city administrator was terminated by the City Council last August after she was on the job for not quite a year.
Gleason said he put the item of the employment conditions in the public works department on Monday’s meeting agenda to “kind of light a fire underneath whoever needs to be lit under to get something going.”
Committee member Mark Pelletier, who opposed the motion, disputed whether the committee had the jurisdiction to forward employment matters to the City Council.
However, Sauer said the committee could do so because it oversees the public works department.
The committee’s motion to recommend the City Council do an investigation into the employment conditions at the public works department as the relate to Kingman passed with Gleason, Sauer and Belliveau voting in favor and Pelletier and George Kirby being opposed.