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Sturtz resignation raises questions

By Staff | Nov 23, 2009

The acceptance of the resignation of Winnebago’s deputy city clerk was anything but routine Tuesday night.

On Monday, Nov. 16, Jessi Sturtz gave notice that her last day would be Nov. 25.

She gave no reasons why she was leaving.

That prompted Councilman Dana Gates to ask City Administrator Jennifer Feely if there was any additional information the council should know about.

When Feely said no, that’s when the grilling and squabbling began.

“Jennifer, I received a letter today from Jessi outlining some of her reasons,” Gates told the city administrator.

A copy of the letter was not given to the media or read out loud.

City Attorney Douglas Johanson says contents of the letter constitutes Private Personnel Data and does not have to be made public. He says Sturtz, not the council, has the right to make the letter public.

Other council members said they also received a letter from Sturtz, but it became clear at least one person didn’t get one.And, Mayor Randy Nowak wasn’t too happy about it.

“I would like to have a copy, since every other council member has one,” he says.

Nowak pressed the council, wanting to know why they did not tell him about the letter.

Some said they received the letter late Monday afternoon, while another said he got it 15 minutes before the meeting.

The explanations didn’t seem to satisfy Nowak.

“The policy is to go through me if you receive anything,” he told the council.

Then, it was Councilman Chris Ziegler’s turn to be on the attack.

Ziegler told Feely he was “very disappointed” she had not informed them of Sturtz’s resignation ahead of time.

Feely says she did not want to violate the Open Meeting Law by discussing it with each council member.

“In the past, that’s the way it’s always been done,” says Feely, referring to the resignation being added to the meeting agenda.

Councilman Rick Johnson told Feely he doesn’t like surprises and doubts that calling a council member is a violation of the Open Meeting Law.

Feely then presented two options to fill the vacancy.

The council could either hire a new person or contract for the services of the deputy city clerk.

In a memo to the council, Feely says, “The city could forgo the need to hire another person for this position and eliminate costs involved with future training and staff turnover.”

Sturtz is the second deputy city clerk to leave since 2005. She was appointed to the position at a March 2008 council meeting.

Johnson says he’s against the idea of shipping out local jobs to someone else.

Ziegler asked Feely if she and the accounting assistant could handle the duties in the interim.

Feely says other than payroll and bills, someone would need to be hired for other duties. She says city administrators do not have knowledge of government fund accounting.

“You have to be trained. It is not just a position you can come in and do it,” she says.

Ziegler appeared surprised and says a city administrator should be able to handle all the duties in the office.

“I don’t think it is fair to make me look bad. It’s not fair to expect that I can do everybody’s job,” says Feely.

Gates says he wasn’t ready to make a decision because the council had just received Feely’s proposal. The matter was tabled until Dec. 2.