Traverse City Record-Eagle


April 26, 2013

Grand Traverse to adopt verbal administrator reviews

TRAVERSE CITY — Grand Traverse County commissioners will scrapping written reviews of the county’s administrator in favor of a verbal review process.

Commissioners recently voted to adopt a verbal review process similar to one used by Traverse City commissioners to review the city’s manager. The city hires a consultant who interviews each commissioner about the manager’s performance and compiles the interview results in a written report. The manager then meets with city commissioners to discuss the written results.

County officials, including the man who will be the subject of the verbal reviews, said the new process will fix many shortcomings inherent with written reviews, which had commissioners fill out anonymous evaluations that assign the administrator a numerical score in several categories.

“I don’t know what a 3.5 means,” county Administrator Dave Benda said. “It doesn’t tell me what I need to do better, or what commissioners really like.”

Commissioner Sonny Wheelock described himself as a vocal opponent of the old process over the last six years. Wheelock said many commissioners declined to provide written explanations of why they settled on a given number.

“You’re left with, he gets an eight under administration, and a seven under leadership, and a seven under responsiveness,” Wheelock said. “It tells me absolutely nothing and it tells Dave absolutely nothing. It doesn’t tell him what we want him to improve on.”

Benda’s review likely won’t occur until November or December, and county officials still need to work out details of how the process will work, including whether to bring in an outside consultant.

Commissioner Larry Inman said he doesn’t like hiring consultants if it can be avoided.

“My definition of a consultant is, you hand a person your watch and ask them what time it is,” Inman said.

But other commissioners said a county employee who conducted the evaluation would be in the awkward position of leading a review of his or her boss. A consultant would not face that conflict.

“It puts more objectivity into the process,” Commissioner Christine Maxbauer said.

County officials said a summary of review findings will be shared with the public, regardless of what form the review takes.

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