Rochester City Council on Monday, September 24, approved a two-year contract renewal and a two-percent salary increase for city manager Blaine Wing, with one council member strongly in opposition.
Council approved the contract after discussing the matter in closed session. They returned to approve the contract, at which point councilwoman Ann Peterson voiced her opposition.
"I'm having a hard time with that because based on the leadership that we have had experienced here lately," Peterson said. "There's been so much angst and so many personnel issues and so many things happening in the city right now, I don't think that the leadership is what the city needs at this time.
"I know some of my colleagues aren't going to agree with me, but I was voted in to take care of the residents of the community and the taxpayers, and to wear that hat to make sure they are treated fairly and properly, and I do not see that happening. I would not like to renew the contract or approve any sort of increase in pay."
The particular issues related to Peterson's comments weren't immediately known, as contract negotiations and the city manager's performance review are conducted in closed session and not subject to the state's Open Meeting Act.
Councilwoman Kim Russell acknowledged the existence of some leadership issues, but favored approving the contract and pay raise.
"I think that what we discussed is some strengths and weaknesses, but I think we really need to look for that leadership, and that was heard," Russell said. "I'm looking for changemakers, not just ability. We are looking to influence new roads and to have that so employees can feel they are encouraged to have big ideas, and to create a culture that we deserve for our city employees, our residents and our businesses.
"It's tough for me and it's not clear cut. We have ups and downs. It's not like in the private sector, but we do have to make a decision of support at this point."
Council voted 6-1 to approve the contract and pay increase, with Peterson opposing.
Wing was hired as Rochester city manager in late 2015 to replace former manager Jaymes Vettraino, who left to serve with Rochester College. Wing previously worked as assistant village manager for Oak Brook, Illinois; assistant administrator for the village of Cary, Illinois; and assistant manager in Flossmoor, Illinois.
Peterson continued to voice her displeasure when a motion was made to forego returning to closed session in order to discuss the personnel evaluation for the city's finance director Anthony Maggio. That decision was made based on a previous agreement to adjourn by 10 p.m.
"We always put a time limit on things that are important," she said. "It's very poor of us to try to do this to them every time. I think it's wrong. I'm very disheartened. I'm going to decide if I want to stay on council, and if I do, it's to fight for the residents of this community... I don't think it's right that we have people wait and wait and wait, then complain that it's too late."
Councilman Ben Giovanelli said there's a disagreement on the board, and that council had been in attendance since 6 p.m. that night.
"I'll send you a coupon for a Big Mac, fries and a coke," Giovanelli said, in consolation to Maggio. "I'm a big spender that way."