By Kevin Boneske
ASHWAUBENON – Following the resignation of Village Manager Allison Swanson taking effect two days earlier, the village board held a special meeting Friday, July 10, and referred how to fill the position to the Finance and Personnel Committee.
Village President Mary Kardoskee said a meeting was held the previous week with the village’s department heads, who favored a village manager and another person handling human resources (HR) matters.
However, given the current budget outlook, Kardoskee said she doesn’t know if the village will be able to afford both positions, where some to duties would be shifted to an HR person from the village manager.
“(Village Attorney) Tony (Wachewicz) and I have called a couple of different places about hourly rates for if we would contract (HR services),” she said.
Kardoskee said she and the department heads have taken over various duties of the village manager since Swanson’s resignation.
In her resignation email The Press Times obtained in an open records request, Swanson stated to the board June 29, “It is with much sadness that I must notify you of my resignation from the village effective July 8, 2020.”
“I have always served this community with honesty and integrity and with the mission to continually elevate the community to a better version of itself,” she said. “It (has been) a pleasure to serve the citizens of my hometown.”
Swanson became the village manager in 2011, after having been a city attorney in Green Bay, and has been at odds with the Ashwaubenon Public Safety Officers’ Association (APSOA), which announced a vote of no confidence in her Feb. 6.
Swanson’s attorney, Kyle Thelen of the Herrling Clark law firm, said the union’s “constant unjustified attacks against Mrs. Buckley (Swanson) created such a hostile and uncomfortable workplace that she believed she had no choice but to resign.”
Prior to her resignation, Swanson filed a defamation suit May 20 in Brown County Circuit Court against the APSOA, its president, Eric Paulowski, and secretary, Melanie Lovato.
Some of the union’s complaints about Swanson resulted in state and federal lawsuits along with labor grievances being filed on behalf of past and present public safety officers.
When considering budgetary matters, Finance Director Greg Wenholz recommended the board think two to three years into the future with the decisions it is making now.
“But I don’t think there’s a capital project down our list that’s more important than bringing (in) an HR person at this point,” he said.
Wenholz said budget woes the village is facing this year will likely carry over into 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I don’t have any new information for next year other than the longer the virus goes on, the longer everything is going on will continue,” he said.
Wenholz said two large amounts attributing to this year’s budget shortfalls center around room tax revenue and money from a shared agreement with the Oneida Nation.
“Going into next year, the two big issues initially will be the Oneida service agreement and then also the assessed valuation,” he said. “The assessment ratio is expected to drop about five points, which equates to roughly $400,000 (in less property tax revenue without increasing the tax rate).”
Wenholz said department heads agree there is a need for a HR manager.
“I think personally it’s one of these things that we just have to figure out how to make it work,” he said. “Maybe for a year it’s spotty with some kind of contracted set dollar amount, if we can, whether that’s reposition duties within the village.”
Wenholz said there could be an opportunity to shift some work around with the anticipated departure of Clerk-Treasurer Patrick Moynihan Jr., who plans to resign early next year if elected in November as Brown County clerk, for which he is the only candidate running.
“So then maybe it’s a shoot for the second half of 2021 or 2022 when we bring on a full-time person,” he said. “But I just think it’s important that I know that the other departments think it’s that important that we’ve just have to figure out a way to get it into the budget…”
Kardoskee said she doesn’t know, after speaking with Wenholz, how the village financially will be able to bring on a full-time human resources person, which could cost around $60,000 to $90,000 annually.
“It’s tough to add a full-time person anytime, and in what’s coming up, we had our budget for 2020 and we’re already in a hole on that,” she said.
Kardoskee said village staff would prefer the HR position not be combined with village manager.
If the village would contract HR services, Kardoskee said employees could come in and talk with that person when he or she is available.
“Some of the process part of the HR, Greg and I have talked about, can be handled by some of the other staff,” she said.
Kardoskee said the City of De Pere, which has about 5,000 to 6,000 more people than Ashwaubenon, has a full-time HR director, a full-time HR assistant and a full-time city administrator.
Trustee Mark Williams said he would like to look at what other communities the size of Ashwaubenon are doing related to HR services.
“We know what we think we need with a manager and a full-time HR director,” he said. “But how are some of the other communities doing? I have no idea.”
Trustee Chris Zirbel said he would like to see a breakdown of responsibilities by job description.
“To tell you the truth, I don’t know totally what responsibilities everybody has in this building,” he said. “I’d like to see it before we move forward to any kind of decision, personally.”
Trustee Allison Williams, who has an HR background and expressed reservations about contracting out those services instead of hiring someone full-time, said the industry standard is one HR representative for every 100 employees.
“I mean, we’re talking about we’re going to have a one-man HR department,” she said. “That’s a lot. I’ve done it before.”
Wenholz said the village has around 110 full-time employees.
“In a full summer with part-time (employees), we get up to 250-275,” he said.
Though cost is an obstacle, Trustee Gary Paul said he preferred a full-time HR person over someone part-time.
“A part-time person (doesn’t) take it (to) heart as a full-time person would,” he said. “You get a full-time person and they’re going to hopefully be married to the village like all our full-time people are. A part-time person is (thinking) I’m here today and I’m gone tomorrow.”
Mark Williams said the village’s best option right now is referring the matter to the Finance and Personnel Committee, which could hold a public meeting or two to receive feedback and then bring a recommendation back to the board.
“We’re going to cover it this year with what we got, one way or another,” he said.
The Finance and Personnel Committee’s next meeting is 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 21.