Ann Arbor City Administrator Resigns and Apologizes to the Ward
ANN ARBOR, MI – City Administrator Tom Crawford has formally resigned to Ann Arbor City Council following a termination vote.
In a two-page letter to Mayor Christopher Taylor and the city council on Tuesday August 3, Crawford reiterated his regret at his comments that led to an investigation and his departure after a 17-year career with the city.
“The past eighteen months have tested us all – physically, emotionally, and mentally,” he wrote. “As a manager, I thought about this time and realized that I was not always in my best form, which, as I now understand, hurt some employees, caused suspicion and fear.”
To those who were negatively affected, Crawford said he sincerely apologized.
“As a civil servant, I have high standards for myself and my employees, and personally I have not met my own standards,” he wrote. “I firmly believe that diversity and inclusivity add tremendous value to the organization and the city as a whole, and I apologize for that.” [sic] Our entire community for not incessantly adhering to the principles that I and the city council want to adhere to. “
Crawford served as the city’s chief financial officer from 2004 to 2020 before becoming city manager last year after the council sacked then administrator Howard Lazarus.
Crawford’s resignation as city administrator is effective immediately, although he will remain on the city’s payroll until October 1. There are important initiatives underway, he said, pledging to support the transition.
“My wife, children, and I are proud to call Ann Arbor home and have been serving the Ann Arbor ward for nearly two decades,” wrote Crawford. “It has also been an honor and privilege to serve with the many talented, motivated, and compassionate staff and community leaders who care for our residents. I learned so much from everyone and gained so much as we experienced the challenges and opportunities over the past year and a half. “
Tensions rise as the Ann Arbor Council approves the city administrator’s separation from 7-4
The council voted 7-4 on factional lines to approve Crawford’s split this week, with Taylor and his allies in favor and the minority faction against. Taylor defended the decision in a statement shared on social media.
“No matter what irrational, caustic Q-A2 nonsense you read or hear, this separation is the only, correct, and inevitable result of inappropriate statements by the employee,” said Taylor. “A manager can be fallible and grow – but a manager must also meet the highest standards and be responsible for the damage they cause employees and the workplace.”
After reviewing the investigation report, considering the city’s policies and practices, and weighing the professional judgment of councilors, Taylor said he concluded that Crawford’s remarks forced a separation.
“The report concludes that the employee has made ubiquitous, inappropriate comments on minority attitudes, race and sexual orientation, statements that contradict the organization’s values as a community and workplace and are simple and totally unacceptable,” said he. “The report also addressed the deep damage inflicted on the employees interviewed and stated that, in light of these comments, several of them had serious reservations about their ability to work with the employee and / or for the city.”
9-page investigation report detailing allegations against Ann Arbor city administrator
Crawford denied making some of the comments and offered explanations for others, but ultimately admitted that he made comments that were unacceptable and unfortunate.
Taylor argued that failure to part ways with Crawford would cause more damage to the city, including loss of employee morale, permanent employee retention and recruitment damage, a significantly reduced ability to discipline employees for similar behavior in the future, and falling short of diversity initiatives.
“A CEO who creates these conditions, regardless of remorse, interpersonal friendliness, or past service, cannot run the organization effectively,” concluded Taylor.
Council members in the minority argued that not enough research was done before deciding to part ways with Crawford. The investigation by an outside attorney was superficial, interviewing five people who worked with Crawford and made “simple claims” that were not “beyond doubt,” said Councilor Kathy Griswold, D-2nd Ward.
Councilors Ali Ramlawi, D-5th Ward, and Elizabeth Nelson, D-4th Ward, also defended Crawford.
“We had an employee review of his performance and response to COVID, and it was unanimously clear that he did an excellent job protecting his employees, caring for and communicating about employees and their wellbeing,” said Ramlawi recently.
Nelson wrote on her blog, “Over the past six months, an employee survey has confirmed his supportive leadership through the pandemic crisis.”
Ann Arbor News / MLive filed a Freedom of Information Act motion for all Crawford performance assessments conducted by city officials, but the city clerk’s office responded Tuesday with “The records do not exist.” The news is being followed by the city authorities to see if there is any record of a survey in which employees rated Crawford’s performance.
Recognizing his time serving as a city administrator through the pandemic, Crawford said in his resignation letter that the city staff and “so many others across the city” did everything possible to fulfill the moment of service to the community.
“I admire their work and their dedication incredibly and we are safer and healthier because of their unwavering commitment in one of our most difficult times as city and country,” he wrote.
While hoping to move on and rededicate himself to “critical efforts to improve diversity, equity and inclusion,” Crawford wrote, “I see that this is impossible for some, and I want the city to move forward positively.”
Ann Arbor has made significant strides over the past year in laying the foundations for meaningful inclusive city development, but there is “much more to be done to become the Ann Arbor we want to be” said Crawford.
“Enhancing diversity, equity and inclusion challenges each and every one of us to come together with heart, head and voice and be accountable to ourselves and to others. It is a sometimes chaotic and heartbreaking endeavor that neglects individuals and institutions, ”he wrote. “When that happens, I hope that failure comes with an opportunity to learn and grow – my experience has been that we are best as a society when we work together to shape our future.”
Going forward, Crawford hopes that Ann Arbor will become a model for positively anticipating the injustices created in the past to create a better future for all residents while caring for one another.
The council appointed Craig Hupy, the city’s public services administrator, as acting administrator until August 11th, after which John Fournier, the city’s assistant administrator, will take over the role until August 16th. The council is expected to draft a plan for an interim administrator on August 16.
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