Portland councilors to hold private sessions with manager, clerk, counsel

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— The mayor has called for a closed-door meeting between the City Council and the city manager, following recent public criticism of city management by a couple of councilors. 

Mayor Jill Duson said this week that she hopes a meeting with the nine councilors and City Manager Joe Gray will satisfy the needs of some councilors to air concerns to Gray, while also giving Gray the opportunity to respond.

Gray is one of three city employees who are direct hires of the council. The other two, City Clerk Linda Cohen and Corporation Counsel Gary Wood, will also be brought in to discuss their job performances.

Duson’s decision comes a couple weeks after Gray, Cohen and Wood had their annual performance evaluations with the council Appointments and Non-Union Personnel Committee. The members of that committee are Councilors John Coyne, Dan Skolnik and Cheryl Leeman. Other councilors are welcome to participate in the committee meetings. 

Skolnik was the first councilor to publicly criticize city staff, and particularly Gray. The chairman of the Public Safety Committee, Skolnik has expressed displeasure with the lack of response to his requests for information concerning the way calls for service to the Police Department are recorded, particularly the way addresses are listed. He could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Last week, Councilor John Anton discussed his city management concerns on WMPG radio. Anton said this week that his concerns are not about individual people at City Hall, but with the way the council reviews direct hires.

“I think our review process for the three direct hires is inadequate,” Anton said. “This isn’t about Joe Gray. It’s about all three of the people we hire and fire.”

Currently, all nine councilors fill out performance review forms evaluating the direct hires, and those forms are passed along to the Personnel Committee, which compiles them and then meets with the employees.

“We’ve never really said, ‘this is what we want you to do, these are our expectations,'” he said. 

Anton said he’d like the council to develop explicit expectations for the city manager, city clerk and corporation counsel positions.

Duson said that after speaking with Anton, she decided calling for a closed door session was the best forum for the councilors who want to further discuss performance reviews with the employees in question.

“I for one think the best process is to talk to them directly when you have a concern,” Duson said. 

Gray said on Tuesday he has no objection to the meeting, adding that feedback is always important.

“I’ve already just recently had my performance review and was happy with it,” he said. “A couple of councilors feel they want to broaden the review.”

A date for the meeting, or meetings, has not been scheduled. Duson said she definitely wants to hold them in October.

Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or kbucklin@theforecaster.net