City Council Upholds Firing

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Mayor Criticizes Public Works Director For Handling Of Situation

By Joe Foreman, Editor

The Glenwood City Council voted unanimously to uphold the firing of a crewman supervisor for the Glenwood Public Works department during a marathon meeting Tuesday, Aug. 28. At the same meeting, the council voted 3-2 to allow public works director Perry Cook to keep his job, despite a recommendation from Mayor Kim Clark that he, too, be fired.

The council voted 5-0 to back Cook’s Aug. 24 termination of Lee Dinklage, who was dismissed from his position for insubordination, undermining authority and being disrespectful to Cook. The vote came after Dinklage defended himself to the council during an open-session discussion that lasted more than an hour.

Dinklage said respect is a “two-way street” and cited occasions when he felt he was being treated in a disrespectful manner by Cook. Dinklage also presented a copy of his own employee performance evaluation completed by Cook last February. In the evaluation, Cook described Dinklage as a “good worker” and said he “takes pride in his job” and “works well with coworkers.” However, a letter from Cook attached to the performance review stated, “As a supervisor, I make decisions that employees and other people don’t always agree with, which is fine, but don’t disrespect and criticize in front of other employees concerning issues and how road use money is spent, unless you have all the budget information.”

Dinklage conveyed his displeasure with how his termination was carried out, noting he was hearing rumors of his firing “on the street” two weeks prior to being formally notified of his dismissal by Cook. Dinklage admitted to having disagreements with Cook in recent months, but denied he was attempting to undermine his boss’ authority or exhibited disrespectful behavior.

“Just because you don’t agree with somebody, that doesn’t mean you disrespect them,” Dinklage said. “If I see something wrong, I’m going to point it out.”

City councilman Steve Fornoff asked Dinklage why he should be allowed to keep his job?
“I can lead if I’m given the opportunity,” Dinklage said. “I can’t lead if everything I do is micromanaged.”

When questioned by other council members, Dinklage admitted he may have used inappropriate language at times while carrying out the duties of his job and sometimes made supervisory decisions without consulting Cook. Dinklage said he came to the council to not only explain his side of the story in an effort to keep his job, but also to preserve his reputation.

“I want to walk out of here with my head held high, knowing I did the best possible job for the citizens of Glenwood, Iowa,” Dinklage said. “At 63, to get fired is tough, folks.”

Cook told the council the decision to terminate Dinklage was difficult to make.

“The only answer I had was to do what I did,” Cook said. “I didn’t take that decision lightly.”

After the vote to uphold the termination was taken, Clark criticized the manner in which Cook has handled the strained relationship with Dinklage over an extended period of time and recommended he be dismissed as well.

“It’s been dragging out. This is just crap,” Clark said. “I think it’s very unprofessional for an employee to hear about it (termination) on the street.”

The vote on Cook’s job status was taken around 11:15 p.m., after a one-hour closed session in which his job performance was discussed. Craig Florian, Kay LeFever and Cheryl Evans voted in favor of Cook keeping his job, while Susan Hirschman and Fornoff voted in agreement with the mayor’s recommendation.

Other agenda items:
* Leaks in the roof at the Glenwood Public Library also generated significant discussion at the council meeting.

Glenwood Public Library Board member Marti Cheyney informed the council that several areas of the library received water damage after a heavy rain in mid-August, including computer areas and the recently-renovated children’s department on the bottom level of the library.

“We’re at a point where we might have to cover computers every time it rains,” Cheyney said.

In an interview after the meeting, Cheyney said the current condition of the roof and some of the brick facing on the library building has deteriorated to the point that the structure has become a safety concern. She noted pieces of brick have fallen off the building, particularly on the north side of the 108-year-old structure.

The library is owned by the city, but the mayor and council members didn’t seem eager to provide funds for the roof repairs, questioning the library board’s decision to renovate the lower level of the building with the knowledge that the roof was in need of replacement.

Clark said the library “has a history” of taking cash settlements from roof-related insurance claims and spending the funds on other projects.

Glenwood code enforcement officer Jim Webel said he inspected the roof and found several holes and areas where water is “ponding.” Repair and replacement of the roof could carry a price tag in the neighborhood of $50,000.

Library board member Gary Johnson pointed out the library has never been given a line item in the city budget for major maintenance and repairs. The “maintenance” funding the library receives only covers day-to-day operations, including mowing, snow removal, cleaning and minor fix-up projects.

“That’s an old building, it’s going to need repairs,” Johnson said.
Cheyney noted the Glenwood Public Library is the only building in Mills County on the National Registry of Historic Places.

In regard to Clark’s comment about insurance money, Cheyney said the $7,000 insurance settlement funds collected for damage to the library annex roof last summer went to the city, not directly to the library. The funds were eventually used to assist in funding an air conditioner and furnace replacement project at the library.

Cheyney said the library board is a service board that doesn’t have a means of generating funds for projects like a major roof replacement.

“We’re operating on bare bones,” she said. “We (library board) haven’t been negligent. The city does own the property.”

Donations received through the Glenwood Library Foundation, Cheyney said, must be used to improve services or programs at the library, not repairs and maintenance.

Cheyney said a tarp may have to be placed over the roof of the library until the situation is resolved. If the leaks continue, certain areas of the library may have to be shut down temporarily, she said.

City council member Florian said in an interview after the meeting he believes the city should do everything it can for the library, but added he would like to see the library board develop a short-term and long-term strategic plan.

“I’d like to see a one-, five- and 10-year plan,” Florian said. “We have to have fiscal responsibility and I think they act a little bit fast at times.”

* The council voted to hire Angie Winquist as the new city clerk to replace Judith Groves, who will remain in the office as a deputy clerk.