Wednesday, December 08, 1999

Unsure future awaits Shirey

City manager's review begins

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A week after being sworn into office, Cincinnati City Council will meet privately today to discuss the fate of the city manager.

        Mayor Charlie Luken and Councilman Paul Booth have called for a session closed to the public to consider the employment and compensation of City Manager John Shirey.

        “This is the beginning of the city manager's review that we've been talking about getting done before the end of the month,” Mr. Luken said Tuesday. “I want to get a sense of where the council is at.”

        The move came a day after Mr. Luken publicly criticized Mr. Shirey over his handling of a three-way deal to move county parking spaces into the vacant downtown McAlpin's site.

        Mr. Luken said that is not an issue.

        “What happened (Monday) is not necessarily indicative of the city manager's performance,” Mr. Luken said, adding that the meeting was an extension of the normal review process. “Whether he stays or not, there will be occasions where the city manager and I disagree with the process.”

        On Tuesday, Councilman Charlie Winburn asked the mayor to meet with the council and resolve “once and for all” whether the city manager is the right person “to move the city forward.”

        “I am suggesting that if you believe the manager has outlived his usefulness, then ... you have an obligation to meet with council,” Mr. Winburn said in a letter.

        Mr. Shirey, an engineer by training, has held his $149,000-a-year job since 1993. He oversees the day-to-day operation of Cincinnati — appointing department heads, supervising 7,000 employees and managing a $900 million budget.

        In June, the previous City Council delayed Mr. Shirey's annual performance evaluation for six months while requiring him to finish a list of projects. At the same time, they awarded him with a 3 percent raise.

        They asked him to appoint an assistant city manager to deal directly with downtown and neighborhood development issues; make a concerted effort to improve neighborhoods; and follow through on plans passed by council.

        The council criticized his handling of economic development issues, but Mr. Shirey said it didn't give him credit for his success, including the Fort Washington Way rebuilding project.

        Mr. Shirey was asked to prepare a performance evaluation as a response to the council's concerns. He already has hired an assistant and taken steps to encourage business in the city, including a mailer that went out Monday to city “customers” that outlines new city programs aiding developers.

        Mr. Luken said Mr. Shirey's evaluation should be ready sometime next week.

        “He is working on his report,” said the mayor, who was critical of Mr. Shirey during his election campaign.

        “What I said was, the relationship between the city manager and the council was poisonous. I did not say who” was at fault, Mr. Luken said.

        Although Mr. Luken said his remarks Monday over the parking spaces had nothing to do with the review session, Mr. Winburn said in his letter that the mayor's remarks underscored a conflict.

        “You have publicly expressed your dissatisfaction with the performance of the city manager,” he wrote. “I would encourage you to set a meeting date for the evaluation of the manager.”


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