Mount Carmel manager subjected to mayor's 'unorthodox' evaluation after officer demotion

Jeff Bobo • Sep 11, 2018 at 1:55 PM

MOUNT CARMEL — Town Administrator Mike Housewright will submit to a standardized performance evaluation similar to what state employees receive when the Mount Carmel BMA meets Sept. 27, as opposed to the "unorthodox" questioning he was subjected to by the mayor last Thursday night.

On Thursday, the BMA convened for a special meeting called by Mayor Chris Jones to conduct a performance review on Housewright and discuss town administrator responsibilities.

The only other time Housewright's performance was "evaluated" by the BMA was this past March after he demoted former Assistant Police Chief George Copas to patrolman.

Thursday's performance review meeting was called by the mayor after former Lt. Ken Lunsford Sr. was recently demoted to patrolman. The reason for that demotion wasn’t released publicly.

Although Lunsford was demoted by Mount Carmel Police Department Chief Grady White, Housewright has the final say on all personnel matters within the city.

The heart of the issue

Following a series of "performance review" questions asked by Jones, he got to to the heart of his issue with Housewright, which was the fact that Jones hadn't been notified of the officer’s demotion.

"I like to be kept informed about what's going on in town," Jones told Housewright. "Not necessarily to be a part of it, but when I get asked questions out here by citizens and I don't know the answers, it's hard to answer those questions."

Housewright told Jones that his response when asked by the public about personnel matters should be that he doesn't discuss personnel actions with the public.

Jones: "But changes in staff, you don't think it's pertinent that we know about it?"

Housewright: "I handle that on a case-by-case basis."

Thursday’s ‘performance review’

Jones' first question for Housewright was to list everything he has accomplished in the eight months he has served as town administrator.

Housewright's joked that his biggest accomplishment may be "still being employed."

In seriousness, however, Housewright said he didn't know what to expect from Thursday's "evaluation" and he wasn't prepared to list his accomplishments, although he said 90 percent of his job is managing the day-to-day operation of city services.

Jones also wanted to know how many grants Housewright had applied for (none); the status of the handheld camera speed enforcement program (inactive and cameras returned to vendor); and status of weekly reports Jones asked for. Housewright said he submits reports "about every two weeks or so."

Jones: "Have you got a plan of action that you want to see the direction of the town go in?"

Housewright: "It is not my responsibility to establish the plan of action. I am hired to put into the vision that you all set as a board."

Jones then asked what guidelines Housewright was following (city policy); and if he had met with any local business owners (some, but he didn't have a list).

Another evaluation method suggested

Eventually, Housewright interrupted the questioning to express his thoughts on Jones' evaluation method.

"The be completely honest, and with all due respect, I find a special called meeting with a quiz about what I've done to be an unorthodox method for a performance review," Housewright said. "I will be happy to prepare a list of accomplishments and a list of things I've been working on. I had no information with regards to any questions you may have, or anybody else."

Eventually Alderman Eugene Christian suggested that the town use a state employee performance review for  Housewright that includes a written questionnaire, performance grading system and a place for board members to indicate areas where they would like Housewright to improve.

"You've got to have some sort of structure here, which we don't," Christian said.

The BMA approved Christian's motion that Housewright receive a copy of the state employee evaluation questionnaire so that he has time to prepare for a proper evaluation during the Sept. 27 regular monthly meeting.


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