BELDING — After a lengthy closed session meeting which lasted more than 3 1/2 hours, Belding City Manager Meg Mullendore left Tuesday evening’s Belding City Council meeting following her performance evaluation with her position still intact.
Following two meetings that featured lengthy public comment periods in which several citizens voiced their displeasure with Mullendore’s performance in her first year, demanding her resignation or removal from her position by City Council, council members evaluated Mullendore in her annual review nearly one year since she was hired as city manager.
Once the closed session reconvened into open session, Mayor Ron Gunderson announced that Mullendore had received a score of 2.7 points on a scale of 1 though 5.
“We have discussed areas of improvement and goals and also discussed strengths and weaknesses,” he said. “We will continue to work with the manager for goals and timeframes on those goals.”
Gunderson then asked if there was any other city business for council to discuss.
Mayor Pro Tem Tom Jones motioned that the meeting be adjourned, receiving support from Councilman Joe Feuerstein. Gunderson then adjourned the meeting, which began at 7 p.m. and lasted until approximately 11:45 p.m.
Council members evaluated Mullendore on a 5-point scale over a total of 10 categories, which consisted of individual characteristics, professional skills and status, relations with elected members of the governing body, policy execution, reporting, citizen relations, staffing, supervision, fiscal management and community.
Mullendore’s score of 2.7, an average of the five scores given to her by each of the city’s five council members, places her evaluation between “average” (generally meets the performance standard) and “below average” (usually does not meet the performance standard) according to the guideline used by each council member.
There were no amendments made to her two-year contract, which is a two-year contract and expires in April 2015.
Prior to entering closed session for the evaluation, Mullendore acknowledged the issues with her performance that had been voiced by members of the community throughout the past three meetings.
“I know that there are a lot of issues going on and there are a lot of people that are upset and there is some dissension, I understand that,” she said. “This position comes with a bullseye on its back and it’s not unique to just me, it is across the board. (City managers) have to make some decisions that often times are not necessarily popular. As a result of that, other things come to fruition, and it becomes very personal.”
Mullendore said the situation can be frustrating for both sides, herself and the public, but said that she is working to grow and learn in her position as the city’s manager.
“I’m a human being, which means that I’m going to evolve,” she said. “I do want to take time out to thank those that have supported me who have sent me messages, who have called and visited me in my office. That means the world to me and I think they see the big picture. I’m very thankful for that.”
After Tuesday’s meeting, Mullendore told The Daily News that after receiving a rating of 2.7 from council members, she has understands she has work to do to improve as the city’s manager.
“When all is said and done, there were constructive elements brought forward that I know I need to work on,” she said. “There are concerns that were brought forward by the council members, and I respect the candidness and frankness that was given to me relative to those concerns. I take them to heart and will work diligently to turn those weaknesses into strengths and assets. I’m very grateful that the council saw my value and potential to do good things in this community. They’ve instilled a lot of faith in me, and I’m going to live up to that.”
Once Gunderson adjourned the meeting, a few citizens voiced their displeasure that no action was taken by council members to remove Mullendore from her position after her evaluation was completed.
Belding resident Michelle Cooper remarked to the council, “Very poor decision making,” asking that Councilman Jerry Lallo “look up at the crowd” to face those who voted for him, adding “I’m disgusted,” as she left the room.
Belding resident John LaClear then followed with “good job, council,” thanking the council members for their actions on the night.
The comments were a reflection of both frustration and gratitude expressed throughout the past three Belding City Council meetings by various residents and business owners.
Throughout the two separate public comment periods on the evening, community members both criticized and praised Mullendore one final time before her one-year review.
Belding resident Katherine Henry expressed frustration with late changes made to City Council meeting agendas, often made the day of meetings, changes that are not reflected on the agenda posted on the city’s official website.
“If that’s something that we could try to avoid in the future … it’s really hard for the public to participate and be able to ask questions and make comments when items don’t appear at all,” she said.
Henry also thanked Mullendore and the members of council for working more diligently with business items regarding the Freedom of Information Act.
Belding resident and Planning Commission Chairperson Shelly Gladding said she was disappointed in the way the city handled selecting new members to city committees.
“I really think that this is a performance issue,” she said. “These individuals here, they are here because they care. We need to make sure as commissions and boards that we are giving them respect … we need to make sure they are being heard. Whether we agree with them or not, they need to be respected and listened to.”
Belding resident Robert Brown expressed his disappointment with a three-page letter that had been handed to council members at the April 1 City Council meeting by Katherine Henry. The letter outlined many complaints against Mullendore.
“The publication of the document that was circulated at the April 1 meeting was a gross breach of the city manager’s privacy,” he said. “It served no purpose but to further sling mud, spread controversy and continue conspiracy theories. By circulating the document, our citizens have reaffirmed the many unwanted reputations Belding has gathered over the years.”
Brown added that he hoped council members would not take that letter into account during Mullendore’s evaluation.
“I hope this council will have the ability to astern between was is directly involved in the city manager’s office and what happens outside of work in her own personal life,” he said.
Otisco Township resident Craig Crebessa said he believed he represented the majority of the people in attendance in asking that council members terminate Mullednore’s contract with the city.
“On my behalf of what I experienced with the city manger, I don’t think she is fit for our community,” he said. “Everything is black and white that has been put out there, there’s nothing that’s been made up or contrived. As a community member, I’m asking for council to do the right thing this evening and terminate Meg Mullendore’s position here with the community. It’s caused a lot of issues and problems and we would like to move in a positive direction again.”