What were they thinking?
That’s the thought on everyone’s minds after four Edmore Village Council members voted to not renew Village Manager Neil Rankin’s contract.
The move came at a special meeting Monday, which was originally intended to evaluate Rankin’s first year on the job and discuss his contract.
Instead, Councilman Chuck Burr made the motion to not renew Rankin’s contract. President Chet Guild and councilmen Eddie Adams, Jerry Rasmussen and Burr all approved the motion. Councilwomen Bonnie Ashbaugh and Karen Deja voted “no.”
There was no discussion. The meeting was adjourned.
Ashbaugh and Deja both serve on the village’s Personnel Committee, of which Burr is the chairman, but both councilwomen said they knew nothing about Burr’s motion to end Rankin’s contract.
When contacted by The Daily News after the meeting, Guild declined to comment and Adams, Burr and Rasmussen didn’t return repeated phone messages.
This speaks poorly of these four councilmen and the lack of transparency is disappointing. They were elected by citizens of Edmore to represent the people of the village. Edmore residents pay for Rankin’s salary, as well as the salaries of council members.
Edmore residents have every right to know why their elected officials decided suddenly and without warning to end their manager’s contract after just one year on the job before he even had a chance to address any concerns that may have come up in an annual evaluation.
Rankin deserves to know why his contract was ended. If the four councilmen thought Rankin was doing a poor job, he deserves to know the details and be given a chance to improve.
Since the four councilmen refuse to say why they voted, we can only base our impressions of Rankin’s first year on the job on stories we’ve reported.
Rankin was instrumental in helping the village council and the Maxfield siblings reach a repayment agreement on a major outstanding economic development loan to the village after years of rancorous dispute.
Rankin warned the village council about dangerous playground equipment and insurance liabilities at the Glenn D. Curtis Memorial Park. Members of the village council openly scoffed at Rankin, but his warnings resulted in the Curtis Foundation donating more than $50,000 toward improving the playground and restrooms in the park, as well as funding a master plan for the park in order to obtain grants.
Rankin created literature to promote the Edmore Economic Loan Fund Development program and hosted an Edmore Business Expo last month to promote the village’s downtown and financing options. His goal was to inspire entrepreneurs to invest in Edmore and fill some of the empty buildings downtown. Representatives from the Michigan Economic Development Corp., Small Business Development Corp., Michigan State Housing Development Authority and the Edmore Chamber of Commerce all participated.
Rankin actively participated in a countywide economic development discussion last month at Montcalm Community College, along with multiple other local leaders.
Ashbaugh has scheduled a special meeting for 7 p.m. Monday at the Curtis Building in Edmore with the goal of getting her fellow council members to explain their votes, as well as to hear what the citizens of Edmore think.
In the meantime, Rankin will continue to work as Edmore’s manager even after his contract expires Wednesday, as village ordinance states Rankin cannot be terminated from his job without five votes from the council, plus a hearing before the council.
We think Rankin is a talented go-getter who has accomplished quite a bit in his first year. We’d like to see him stay in Montcalm County to see what else he has to offer.
Let’s hope the Edmore community shows up and actively participates in Monday night’s discussion. Rankin is Edmore’s manager, the council members are Edmore’s elected officials and the funds to pay all of them come from Edmore’s taxpayers.
This is Edmore’s future we’re talking about.
Editorial opinions are the consensus of The Daily News editorial board.