Cologne rescinds offer to administrator candidate

Fed up with a protracted negotiating process, the Cologne City Council voted to rescind its job offer to the candidate that council members had chosen to become the next city administrator during their meeting on Monday, Feb. 4.

At its previous meeting, council members had discussed a number of counter-proposals from candidate John Meyer and agreed to make some alterations to the contract in order to bring Meyer aboard. Those changes included raising the proposed pay from $68,000 to $70,000, and making arrangements for more leave time than the original contract had offered in light of Meyer’s extensive experience and education.

However, while council members had originally felt that Meyer was the best individual for the position, his continued requests for alterations to his contract and his lack of timely communication eventually caused personnel committee members Jill Skaaland and Mayor Matt Lein to reconsider.

During the council meeting Skaaland and Lein explained to the rest of the council that Meyer did not answer phone calls and delayed e-mail responses for several days, giving them the impression that he did not place a great deal of importance on finalizing his hiring.

They explained that after yet another additional request from Meyer the previous week, one of several that Skaaland said simply weren’t part of normal working agreements, they had decided to draw a line in the sand — give a definitive yes or no answer to the job offer on the table by Feb. 4 prior to the council meeting. When Meyer responded by accepting the job contingent upon the sale of personal property, Skaaland and Lein had had enough.

As the personnel committee, they brought a recommendation to the remainder of the council to rescind the offer and continue the search.

After some discussion, councilors Jeffrey McInnis and Don Meyer (Scott Williams was absent) agreed to rescind the offer in light of those developments.

The city had hoped to have a new administrator in place around the turn of the year after firing former administrator John Douville in October, but after more than a month of time spent trying to bring John Meyer aboard, the city may be looking at another few months before a new candidate can be chosen.

Skaaland and Lein agreed to revisit nearly 30 applications that had originally been turned in for the position, as well as additional applications that had been received after John Meyer had been chosen and were not extensively considered. Council members decided against simply offering the job to the No. 2 candidate from the original round of interviews due to shortcomings in finance experience.

Last week, Skaaland said the city had also received a new wave of applications after news of the rescinded offer spread.

“We have been receiving calls and applications all week. Matt and I will be reviewing the new applications, along with the older ones, to see what the pool of applicants looks like,” she said. “At that point, we will decide which path we will take to get the next administrator hired. There is a certain sense of urgency to get this done, but we don’t want to move too quickly and take missteps.”

In other business, the council:
• Received a visit from Don Smith and other members of the Benton Lake Watershed Conservancy (BLWC), who asked for an update on the status of the fishing pier and also made an initial proposition to place a rental canoe at the lake for use by the general public.

The pier has been constructed and is currently locked in the ice out on the lake. When the ice thaws, plans are to move the pier to the peninsula and alter the peninsula to make the pier ADA accessible. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources had also proposed removing all of the trees currently growing on the peninsula to replace them with native species, and has offered a $500 grant to help in that process.

Discussion on what type of tree replanting or landscaping to replace the existing non-native trees will continue at future meetings.

The BLWC also suggested putting a canoe down at the lake and having the city store life jackets and paddles to increase the recreational value of the lake. However, questions about ownership, fees for rent or damage deposits, licensing and liability issues would need to be satisfactorily resolved before that suggestion could become a reality.

• Approved a 14th addition final plat for the Village at Cologne development, consisting of 10 single-family lots on Silver Leaf Trail.

City planner Dean Johnson said those 10 lots were the most the city had approved in a number of years due to the economic downturn, and said their addition mostly completed the building out of the development south of Village Parkway. Future development will continue on the north side of the parkway as demand dictates.

• Appointed Pete Mitchell to the planning commission.

• Moved the Monday, Feb. 18 meeting to Tuesday, Feb. 19 due to Presidents’ Day.

Contact Paul Downer at [email protected]