8/2/2019 4:14:00 PM Outside investigators clear Guild in 'no confidence' probe Kingman, Rog, public works investigations also detailed in reports
Heather Schaefer and Jamie Taylor Of the River News
The following story represents a brief synopsis of the results of various city investigations. All four investigative reports referred to in this story are available for public review and inspection at www.facebook.com/
RhinelanderCityHall. We strongly encourage everyone to read the reports and reach their own conclusions as to whether the investigations were full, fair and neutral.
Outside investigators brought in to examine a spate of complaints filed by City of Rhinelander employees and officials over the last several months have completed their work. In short, the investigators concluded "there is not sufficient actual evidence to support a finding of policy violations by the current City administrator (Daniel Guild)" but there is sufficient evidence to support a City Council review to determine if the public works director at the time, Tim Kingman, committed policy violations and what, if any, discipline should apply.
In addition, the investigators found insufficient evidence to support complaints filed by Kingman and alderperson Dawn Rog involving Guild's behavior toward them.
(The reports were submitted to the council in late May. Kingman was placed on "non-disciplinary" paid leave on June 3 and fired by the council June 24. The River News received the reports last week pursuant to an open records request).
The investigators, consultant Rick Hermus and employment lawyer Jim Macy of the von Briesen law firm, were asked to investigate four separate complaints:
A declaration of no-confidence in Guild presented to the city council on March 11. The declaration was signed by Kingman as well as City Clerk Val Foley and city employees Mary Stoll, Beth Mannikko, and Stephanie Rajnicek. (Rajnicek later resigned her position, citing "tension" at City Hall).
Complaints lodged by several Department of Public Works employees alleging a hostile work environment.
A discrimination/retaliation complaint filed by Kingman against Guild.
A discrimination/retaliation complaint filed by Rog against Guild.
The investigators themselves have been the subject of questions as well, as some council members took exception to Mayor Chris Frederickson's decision to act independently in reaching out to them. There is also the matter of an email sent by Guild in early March in which he refers to Hermus as "my trusted colleague". After refusing for weeks to explain his choice of words in that email, Guild eventually told the River News he meant the description as a compliment to Hermus whom he claims he knows only by professional reputation. In the reports, Hermus and Macy state they were "selected to do this investigation as neither had any relationship with the individuals involved in this matter."
"Neither the Mayor nor the City Administrator, Mr. Daniel Guild have directed Mr. Hermus or Mr. Macy in any way as to how they should do the investigation or as to what any outcome should be," the reports state.
The report of the investigation into the "no-confidence" declaration addresses six allegations lodged against Mr. Guild.
Canceling and/or being tardy to scheduled meetings/scheduling meetings off regular hours.
Failing to communicate with employees
Failing to be at work
Falsifying public documents/destroying server information.
Instructing staff not to communicate with elected officials.
Inappropriate spending of city resources (office furniture purchases).
In discussing the allegations, the investigators attribute the concerns expressed by the employees to "a culture that does not follow or respect any form of chain of command" as well as difficulties in adjusting to change and the managerial style of the new administrator.
"We recognize that employees may be uncomfortable based upon actions, decisions or style of the new City Administrator," the investigators wrote. "We recognize that change can be difficult and sometimes threatening. Unfortunately, there also appears to be a culture of making conclusions based upon rumor and innuendo. There appears to be a political culture of taking sides. There appears to be a culture that does not follow or respect any form of chain of command. There is a culture that lacks civility. There is considerable inappropriate over-lap between legislative authority and administrative authority. All of that predates the current Administrator and most likely provides an answer as to why the City has had so many interim and regular City Administrators over a relatively short period of time. Yet, those are only observations based upon the information gained in the investigation. Upon full review of the allegations listed in the Declaration of No Confidence, along with other concerns raised during the investigation set forth herein, there is not sufficient actual evidence to support a finding of policy violations by the current City Administrator."
The report of the investigation into the complaints of a hostile environment in the Department of Public Works states subordinates accused Kingman of yelling, threatening and using inappropriate language.
"Each manager maintains their own style and as such is responsible to those they report to," the investigators wrote. "In this case, some employees clearly feel Mr. Kingman creates a hostile environment, others do not. Some believe he micro manages, others do not. Others believe he yells at people, is threatening and uses inappropriate language, others do not. On this issue of managerial style, that is not necessarily a matter of policy violation. Nor is it a matter of harassment as set forth in City policy. While there is a fairly strong consensus not in support of Mr. Kingman's managerial style, evidence did not demonstrate that a hostile work environment was created based upon a protected employment classification such as sex, race, religion etc. Mr. Kingman's managerial style is a matter left for review by the City Administrator, the Mayor and the City Council. There is insufficient evidence to demonstrate that his managerial style standing alone is a violation of City policy."
As for the allegation that Kingman retaliated against employees who complained about him, the investigators found there was sufficient evidence to warrant further investigation.
"Analysis of the evidence does suggest questionable timing of discipline to the filing of complaints, grievances and concerns by employees," the investigators wrote. "In addition, a greater degree of discipline appears to apply to those who have filed complaints, grievances and concerns than to others disciplined in associated incidents. Sufficient evidence does exist to warrant that this concern be reviewed by the City Council for consideration of violations of City policy."
As for Kingman's allegation of age discrimination, the investigators found Kingman's concerns could be attributed to difficulty in adjusting to the city's new structure rather than discrimination.
"Evidence further shows that the City has decided to use a Council/Administrator form of government. With that, the City Council and Mayor enlist the City Administrator to be the Chief Executive Officer of the organization and report to them as the Board of Directors," the investigators wrote. "Employees generally report to the CEO. The result is that certain past chairs of various committees may no longer hold the individual power they once had. It also means certain department heads may not have as much power now, having to respond to the City Administrator instead of having a more direct alliance with the chair of the committee that oversees their respective department. Mr. Kingman's allegations appear related to structure and authority changes, but not discrimination."
Finally, the investigators determined the evidence does not support Rog's claim that Guild retaliated and discriminated against her on the basis of her gender after she questioned $13,000 in office furniture purchases he made without approval from the City Council. (The mayor approved the purchases).
"Again, whether right or wrong from a political standpoint, evidence does not support that actions taken by the City Administrator in response to questioning about the office furniture purchases was based on sex. As such, there was no violation of the City's Anti-Harassment and Retaliation policy," the investigators wrote.
Furthermore, as to Rog's contention that City Hall employees were directed to shun her following the controversy over the furniture purchase, as well as a separate incident involving an altercation between Rog and the city's IT contractor, thus impeding her from doing her job as an elected official, the investigators found that Guild's directive regarding city employee communication with elected officials was not directed solely at Rog.
"Evidence in this investigation indicates that the directive to employees regarding communication with elected officials applied to requests from all elected officials, regardless of sex," they wrote. "It was not directed against Ms. Rog alone."
The River News reached out to Guild, Kingman, Rog and the three remaining city employees who signed the "no confidence" declaration, seeking comment or reaction to the resolution of the investigations.
An attorney retained by Kingman has advised the newspaper the former public works director has no comment at this time.
"We are reviewing his legal options and will take all steps necessary to protect his legal rights," the attorney added.
Foley also declined to comment.
Guild, Stoll and Mannikko did not respond to our request prior to press time Friday.
For her part, Rog told the River News she does not believe the investigators took her concerns seriously.
"The whole investigation was planned by Guild, using his preferred investigators, to defend himself against multiple claims," she said. "Neither I nor the city received representation in this kangaroo court process."
Posted: Sunday, August 4, 2019
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