Seminole City Council weighs in on city manager’s performance

Seminole City Manager Ann Toney-Deal

SEMINOLE — Throughout September, Seminole City Council members met with City Manager Ann Toney-Deal for one-on-one discussions regarding her job performance.

This was a new approach to the annual city manager evaluations, which in the past have been discussed as a group during a public workshop.

Council members were asked to rate the city manager’s performance in a variety of categories, including job knowledge, financial and fiscal management, decision making, and management and hiring of employees, on a scale of excellent or 5, the highest, to poor or 1, the lowest.

An introduction to the evaluation forms provided to council members said that “a positive or constructive evaluation will instill confidence in the city manager and motivate that individual to a higher level of performance. The evaluation can identify real or perceived problems and give the team an opportunity for corrective action before the problems cause serious discord.”

Additionally, this introduction said that “the evaluation process deserves a great deal of thought and caution. A ‘gripe’ session will discourage the city manager. If the evaluation focuses on unimportant issues, the city manager could easily be redirected toward fruitless pursuits.”

Mayor Leslie Waters and Councilors Thom Barnhorn, Chris Burke, Jim Quinn and Trish Springer rated her as excellent or very good in all categories.

In her review, Waters praised Toney-Deal for her “excellent knowledge of municipal government; all departments, staffing, all duties, goals, and short- and long-term strategies.” She also said the city manager “manages the city budget in excellent fashion.”

Burke praised her in many categories, including “creativity and adaptability,” but said there is some room for improvement.

“Despite numerous roadblocks and challenges that stymied some of our larger projects, she has found work-arounds or other avenues to get things accomplished,” he wrote. “She has not yet reached the point where surprisingly innovative ideas are regularly offered, but this is likely an effect of the tremendous problem solving that has been done.”

Overall, “she continues to be an outstanding city manager and has enjoyed a great deal of success this year,” he added. “Her accomplishments this year along would equal several years’ worth of work for a less experienced city manager, and her 30 years of tenure are absolutely evident in her performance.”

Quinn wrote, “In my opinion, Ann Toney-Deal, our city manager, has done an outstanding job. She has directed our city on the right course, working with and directing the departments heads. She has put out many fires that could develop into a forest fire and correcting any small or large problems she may have inherited.”

Councilors Roger Edelman and Bob Matthews, however, had some criticisms of her performance.

Edelman rated her as poor in the categories of management and hiring of employees, honesty and fairness, and professional and leadership skills. He also rated her as acceptable in the category of communications.

He criticized Toney-Deal’s handling of city employees.

“I believe the city manager is fully aware of each department’s operations and with the help of (human resources) recruits and hires qualified personnel,” he wrote. “However, when it comes to retaining staff, her record is poor at best, as noted by the number of individuals who have left the city under her reign. I also do not believe the city manager consistently provides a positive image for her staff as it relates to fairness, equal treatment and openness. I do believe she understands the need for quality employees and works with (human resources) to hire the best people available, if only we could keep them.”

He added, “I think the city manager needs to do a far better job developing her day-to-day relationships both inside as well as outside City Hall, and work to ensure that her staff respects her and her decisions (through) honest and forthright communications.”

Matthews rated Toney-Deal as poor in the categories of job knowledge, financial and fiscal management, decision making, community relations, honesty and fairness.

Among his criticisms of the city manager, he included her work on the city’s recent fire contract negotiations with the Seminole Professional Firefighters Local 2896 and her treatment of city employees.

“It is my opinion that our city manager Ann Toney-Deal does not apply herself for the city of Seminole as an experienced person when it comes to supervision of employees,” Matthews wrote. “There are inequities in how she treats different employees and how she treats different council members. I feel it is in direct relation as to how those individuals agree or disagree with how she performs her job.”

He added, “I also feel she has similar difficulty as she represents the city and the council with other organizations that do business or work with the city to service our citizens, businesses and visitors.”

Based on these evaluations and her discussions with council members, Toney-Deal created a 2019-2020 City Manager Action Plan that was approved by council at its Oct. 8 meeting.

The action plan, which Waters said is “a living document,” currently calls for the city manager to:

• “continue to address the city’s long- and short-term goals set by city council each year.”

• “continue to attend/participate in community events and to speak with community organizations.”

• “continue to develop and implement strategies to enhance employee engagement and satisfaction.”

• “strive to keep presentations succinct and brief where possible.”

• “assure in the annual retreat that council members collectively guide the decisions/directions with staff participating in a support role to provide information and feedback.”

• “continue to complete park upgrades.’

• “continue to pursue grants that are advantageous to the city.”

• “implement the seven-year pavement management plan.”

• “assure that the city has the ‘happiest’ 50th anniversary possible.”