City Commission Approves Reprimand Of City Manager
Traverse City commissioners voted 4-1 on Monday to issue a reprimand to City Manager Marty Colburn – although the two commissioners who wrote the letter missed the meeting due to COVID-related reasons and the remaining commissioners missed some of the language changed the letter before approving it, including deleting a paragraph about retaliation despite the city attorney’s advice to include it.
Mayor Pro Tem Amy Shamroe and Commissioner Brian McGillivary drafted the reprimand based on discussions Commissioners had previously held in a closed session with Colburn about his violation of the City Charter when he fired City Treasurer Kelli Martin. The statutes state that the town treasurer can only be fired or hired with the consent of at least five commissioners, which Colburn did not receive prior to Martin’s dismissal. The commissioners later voted to uphold Colburn’s decision, but the referral letter states that he was not obeying the mandates of the town charter and that his actions caused discord among staff – particularly with the town attorney, whom he did not consult before firing Martin.
Shamroe and McGillivary unexpectedly missed Monday’s meeting and vote on the referral letter, with Shamroe making a public statement saying she tested positive for COVID-19 as a breakthrough case and is in quarantine until Friday. McGillivary conveyed a message that he had attended a meeting with someone who also tested positive for COVID-19 and was advised to skip Monday’s meeting. Some commissioners expressed discomfort about approving the letter without its drafters who would discuss and vote the point, but others said they wanted to put the matter to bed in the interests of the staff and not drag it out any further.
Mayor Jim Carruthers said he found the letter as it was written to be “melancholy”. Out of town. “He felt he had to act,” said Carruthers, adding that the violation of the charter was just a “word error” in Colburn’s interpretation of the charter. Carruthers also noted that prosecutor Lauren Trible-Laucht was on leave when Colburn fired Martin and was therefore unavailable for advice.
Carruthers and three other commissioners – Tim Werner, Roger Putman and Ashlea Walter – voted to approve the letter with the caveat that a paragraph be deleted requiring Colburn to apologize, both verbally and in writing, to Trible-Laucht and other staff. Werner said apologies should be made sincerely and that it wouldn’t make as much sense to force the city manager to surrender them as Colburn voluntarily chooses to apologize. Colburn apologized at Monday’s meeting and made his first public statement on the matter since Martin’s dismissal. “I apologize and I am sorry we are in this situation,” he said. “In my role as city manager, I take on responsibility. I learned from this experience. I think we all have and now we would like to learn from this experience and would like to continue delivering the professional services we all do to this great community. “Colburn told the commissioners he appreciates their” advisor during this process as we share this matter. ” have worked through “.
Commissioners also trimmed another paragraph from the draft letter before approving it – a change that led Commissioner Christie Minerini to vote against adoption of the document. The letter initially included a standard city language, stating that the city “will not tolerate any form of retaliation” and encouraged Colburn to “recommend that your team refrain from any activity that is retaliatory for participating in treatment this matter could be or appear to be ”. Failure to comply with any of the requirements in the warning letter can lead to further disciplinary action up to and including termination, the letter says.
Werner said he considered the retaliatory language to be an insult to staff and did not need to be included in the warning letter. However, Trible-Laucht said the language is included in all warning letters that go into city employees’ personnel files to make it clear and “on record” that retaliation will not be tolerated, in part as a form of city liability protection if it does retaliation occurs and a lawsuit is filed against the city. Minervini said the city was able to ignore Trible-Laucht’s advice at first and said it would not approve the letter if the retaliatory paragraph were removed. Minnervini said the letter otherwise reflected the Commission’s in camera discussions with Colburn and the disciplinary action the board wanted to take. However, other commissioners disagreed with the inclusion of the retaliatory language and approved the reprimand, removing that particular section.
Under the terms of the approved letter, Colburn must take several corrective actions over the coming weeks to mitigate the effects of the treasurer’s dismissal. The city manager must meet with Trible-Laucht to ensure he “fully understands the charter and other labor laws”. He has to work with Trible-Laucht and the city’s HR director to develop a formal policy for dismissing a city employee. A joint meeting of all three department heads. Colburn will also need to work with the HR director to review the new hire onboarding process to help new hires transition and “understand the unique needs and culture of working in and for the city of Traverse City.” Colburn will have to meet with city commissioners again over the next two to four months to review his job performance and progress on the steps above.