Democrat File Photo
County Manager David Fanslau
Legislators express split over county manager
Story by Dan Hust
MONTICELLO Two legislators’ call for the non-renewal of County Manager David Fanslau’s employment agreement on Monday caught the other seven by surprise but not all of them disagreed with the idea.
A majority of legislators, in fact, appear to have some level of dissastisfaction with Fanslau’s performance.
However, a supermajority (six) would be needed for any vote to end Fanslau’s tenure, and currently legislators seem almost evenly split on the issue.
So while the matter is likely to be discussed between now and the end of the year, Fanslau will just as likely still have his job come January.
The Democrat interviewed Democrats Gene Benson and Cora Edwards at the press conference they arranged on Monday, followed by Democrat Scott Samuelson, the Legislature’s chairman, who decried the effort. Their comments are reflected in this past Tuesday’s story.
Fanslau himself continues to decline requests for comment.
Thus here are the remaining six legislators’ feelings on the issue:
Democrat Kathy LaBuda, Majority Leader
LaBuda declined to comment on Fanslau’s job performance, other than to rebut assertions made during and after the press conference.
“Whatever information I ask the county manager for, I get,” she affirmed. “I’ve had no problem with Dave this year.”
She said she will participate in discussions in the coming weeks about the manager position and hoped that Benson and Edwards will save future comments for those sessions.
“They’re inexperienced,” she said of the duo, believing someone “misinformed” them on the wisdom of holding a press conference without consulting fellow legislators first, especially on a matter involving personnel.
“We’re supposed to be a team,” LaBuda remarked. “We’re supposed to be working together for the betterment of the county.”
Republican Alan Sorensen, Minority Leader
Though unwilling to talk specifically about Fanslau, Sorensen hinted at concerns with his performance.
Sorensen recalled his own tenure a decade ago as the county’s planning commissioner and the constant need to be responsive to every legislator.
“I wasn’t there trying to count to five,” Sorensen explained of how he’d present information to legislators.
He pointed to the Code of Ethics of the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), of which Fanslau is a member.
“I think it’s incumbent on any professional to not get involved in the politics that present themselves and make themselves available to all nine legislators,” Sorensen remarked.
Democrat Jonathan Rouis
Rouis found deep fault with Benson and Edwards’ actions.
“I think it was incredibly shortsighted and mean-spirited,” he remarked. “I’m not sure what was going through their heads, but it certainly was not productive.”
Arguing that unhappy legislators are “misunderstanding what they think is being withheld,” Rouis said Fanslau with whom he worked closely as the prior Legislature chairman never held back on information with him.
“I think David does a great job for the county,” he affirmed. “Everybody has strengths and weaknesses ... but I think he certainly has a great handle” on the county, especially its finances.
He added that dealing with “nine different people going in nine different directions” can be difficult, but Rouis wants Fanslau to stay.
“I think we’ve got the right horse in the race,” he stated.
Republican Kitty Vetter
Vetter considers Fanslau “a very nice man” who’s had “outstanding” evaluations, but she feels he caters to the Democratic majority.
“More information somehow gets shared with the Democratic caucus than this group,” she said, referring to the Republican minority of herself and Sorensen. “And that becomes an issue.”
Vetter likened getting information from Fanslau to “pulling teeth” at times.
In addition, she faulted the manager for not providing more ideas in the tentative 2013 budget.
“This budget should have come in with major suggested ways to make change ... and it wasn’t just me asking for it,” Vetter stated.
She admitted to some concern over the lack of notice from Benson and Edwards over Monday’s press conference but agreed with them that change is needed.
“I think that position needs to be RFP’d,” she said, speaking of issuing a Request For Proposals from interested applicants.
Democrat Ira Steingart
Steingart said now is not the time to be questioning Fanslau’s leadership.
“Right now we should be concentrating on the budget,” he explained. “I think the timing is off.”
Like Samuelson and Rouis, Steingart was upset with Monday’s press conference.
“I agree with Scott: it was despicable,” he noted.
But Steingart is fairly confident Fanslau won’t be voted out.
“I don’t believe they have the votes to do it, number one,” he explained, “and two, I don’t think it’s warranted. I am not supportive of their beliefs.”
Indeed, Steingart said Fanslau has worked tirelessly to present legislators with all sorts of information over the past year.
“I am happy with David,” he affirmed. “He has been very responsive to me. I know everything I’ve ever asked of him has been provided to me.”
Democrat Cindy Gieger
“I have concerns about the flow of information,” affirmed Gieger, who said Fanslau “has directed staff not to talk to us.”
But she added that she did not agree with the timing of Benson and Edward’s announcement and continues to seek clarity on the particulars of Fanslau’s employment agreement, including the Legislature’s abilities thereto.