EDMORE — In an unexpected move, the Edmore Village Council voted 4-2 at a special meeting Monday to not renew their village manager’s contract.
Neil Rankin was hired as village manager last July, just shy of one year ago. His contract expires July 10.
A special meeting took place Monday evening to discuss Rankin’s annual evaluation and contract. The meeting was a short one.
President Chet Guild and councilmen Eddie Adams, Chuck Burr and Jerry Rasmussen approved Burr’s motion to not renew Rankin’s contract. Councilwomen Bonnie Ashbaugh and Karen Deja voted against the motion. The meeting was then adjourned.
Councilman Art Schuitema was absent from the meeting due to medical issues.
“I was blindsided,” Rankin told The Daily News. “All this was decided over at McDonald’s, apparently. This was over and done with a while ago, apparently. There was no discussion. As a first-time manager, well, I’m sorry I didn’t do exactly what you wanted me to do, but what was it that you wanted me to do? It’s shocking to say the least.”
Guild declined to explain his vote when contacted by The Daily News.
“It was just the way the vote went,” Guild said. “I don’t care to comment.”
Adams, Burr and Rasmussen did not return messages seeking comment.
Ashbaugh and Deja said they were both left “speechless” by the events of the evening, especially since they both serve on the village’s Personnel Committee — of which Burr is the chairman — but knew nothing about a motion to not renew Rankin’s contract until Burr made that motion at Monday’s meeting.
“They made the motion and said, ‘Is there any discussion?’ and I probably should have said something, but I was just sitting there stunned,” Deja said. “Where did all this come from? I assumed that because we, the Personnel Committee, hadn’t met, I assumed everything was going OK, and then to be hit like this. I’m not sure that they can do that without a Personnel Committee meeting first.
“I really don’t know what’s going on,” she said. “I don’t think anybody in the community was even aware of this.”
Ashbaugh is working to schedule a special village council meeting for 4 p.m. July 7 (UPDATE: The special meeting is now scheduled for 7 p.m. July 7) to hear feedback from the community, as well as have her fellow council members explain their actions.
“We were just dumbfounded,” Ashbaugh said. “No Personnel Committee, no evaluation, no reasons, no nothing. It felt like it was all predetermined. What a cowardly thing to do. This is not how things should be done.
“The sad thing was, when it was all over, Neil turned to Chet and said, ‘What does this mean?’ And Chet said, ‘You’re done,’” she recalled. “Neil said, ‘When is my last day?’ Chet said, ‘When does your contract expire?’ Neil said, ‘The 10th.’ Chet said, ‘Well, then that’s your last day.’
“I am just dumbfounded,” Ashbaugh repeated.
Rankin said he is going to contact an attorney to consider his options. He said according to his contract, the village council can annually vote to extend or not to extend his contract for a full one-year duration, however, the contract does not say the village council can vote to renew or not renew the contract.
Rankin said when he was first hired last summer, he met with all the council members — except Adams, who was never available — to ask them about their priorities for the village. He said they wanted more jobs, less blight and a nicer downtown in Edmore.
So Rankin said he pursued all these things.
He helped the village council and the Maxfield siblings reach a repayment agreement on a major outstanding loan to the village.
He warned the village council about dangerous playground equipment and insurance liabilities at the Glenn D. Curtis Memorial Park, which led to the Curtis Foundation donating more than $50,000 toward improving playground equipment and restrooms in the park, as well as to fund a master plan for the park.
He hosted an Edmore Business Expo on June 20 to promote the village’s downtown and financing options.
“I tried to be very transparent and deliberate in everything I did,” Rankin said. “The things that were in the works, I guess these things weren’t important.”
Rankin said he will continue to work in his office this week, even as the end of his contract looms. In the meantime, Ashbaugh is hoping the upcoming special meeting on July 7 will bring hidden things into the open.
“Hopefully we’ll get some public input and comments from the community,” she said. “It’s their money that’s paying his salary. They should have an input on how they feel the village is being managed. I hope that the people come out for this and stand behind him with some encouragement.
“It’s only fair to Neil,” she said. “He needs to know why the majority of the council does not want him as their village manager when he has done so much and given so much energy and worked so hard for the village of Edmore. He’s done a great job.”