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W’bago’s Feely comes under fire

By Staff | Mar 14, 2009

While residents were dealing with blizzard-like conditions Tuesday night, Winnebago’s city administrator came under fire at the City Council meeting and was trying to weather her own storm.

It all started when Councilman Dana Gates questioned why Jennifer Feely did not keep city department leaders better informed of proposed cuts being considered because of loss in state aid.

Gates says when talking with an employee of the Public Works department following a special meeting, they were shocked with the reductions that were going to be made.

“Let’s communicate with the department heads a little more. Let them know what is affecting their budgets. Let’s be honest with them, it’s a courtesy that they expect,” he adds.

Gates accused Feely of telling ‘half-truths’ before the council approved more than $50,000 in cuts. He says it wasn’t made clear to department leaders what cuts would be made.

“They weren’t asked for input on those cuts,” says Councilman Chris Ziegler.Discussion then shifted to Feely’s duties as city administrator and if the number of hours spent attending various meetings are used to accrue ‘comp time.’

“I feel very disheartened right now. I think it’s very frustrating for me if you don’t support me,” says Feely “If I tell somebody to do something and they don’t like it, they come to you. It’s difficult to do my job if you are not behind me.”

Councilman Bob Weerts suggested the meeting should be closed if the council was going to discuss personnel matters.

For nearly a half hour councilmembers and Feely talked behind closed doors.

When the meeting was re-opened to the public, Mayor Randy Nowak gave a brief explanation of what was said.

“Management style and chain of command. That’s what was discussed,” says Nowak.

Weerts came to the support of Feely, suggesting department workers were going to councilmembers with issues instead of Feely and the ‘backstabbing’ needs to stop.

“If they have a problem they should come to her. She’s the boss, that’s what we hired her to do. If those guys don’t like it, there’s the door,” says Weerts.

Gates says that part of good management is to work as a team.

Feely told the council it’s unfair to be accused of telling half-truths and being misleading.

“Part of being a city administrator is to do what is in the best interest of the city,” Feely says.

Ziegler says he would like to see Feely provide an explanation regarding any ‘comp time’ she has accumulated.

“I want it to be fair to all employees,” he says.

Also, Ziegler says Feely must delegate more duties to other office employees to avoid working too many hours during the week.

Gates says other employees are being asked to adjust their work schedules, and Feely should do the same.

“The example should come from the top, down. It’s not unusual to ask management to set an example,” Gates adds.

A summary of the closed-session is expected at the next council meeting.