Last week, members of the Wellington Village Council sat down to have a candid conversation about issues in the village. After months of uncertainty that saw the firing of former Village Attorney Jeff Kurtz and put Village Manager Paul Schofield’s job in jeopardy, it was time for a frank discussion of each council member’s concerns and visions for the future.
We agree with Vice Mayor Howard Coates that there is a fundamental difference of opinion among council members of the village manager’s role. Further, we agree that communication is key to fixing the issues, not a shakeup of management.
Schofield has been an asset to Wellington, helping the village weather an economic downfall and come out on top. While other municipalities struggled, Wellington continued to stay ahead.
This has been possible largely because of the village’s strong manager style government, which allows Schofield to make some key decisions without having to run them by the council. This is necessary for a government like Wellington, which provides so many services.
Though council members are making many decisions, they cannot and should not run the day-to-day operations of the village. There must be a chain of command so employees do not feel influenced by council members. That also means the village manager is responsible for the mistakes of those under him.
But, as consultant Chris McLean pointed out, village employees are more concerned with interference from council members than with Schofield’s leadership. Given this, it seems reasonable that Schofield should act as a buffer between council members and staff, who may feel intimidated answering directly to elected officials.
Though there are valid concerns regarding the management of the village, to fire Schofield without giving him a chance to address and rectify the grievances against him would be a grave disservice to Wellington residents.
Wellington, unlike many other communities, has not typically subjected its village manager to annual reviews. This may be a needed change that can further boost communication between council members and staff.
It may also be beneficial to once again bring up the issues discussed at last week’s council workshop, this time with Schofield there to take in the feedback and respond to concerns. He deserves an opportunity to fix problems and alter policies to meet reasonable council expectations.