BREAKING: Layoffs recommended at DeKalb City Hall

January 24, 2019

DeKALB – In a bombshell list of actions to address a $1.1 million budget deficit, City Manager Bill Nicklas is proposing laying off four high-level management staff.

Set for a vote during Monday’s council meeting, the decision would lay off Tim Holdeman, public works director, Jo Ellen Charlton, community development director, Marc Thorson, information technology director, and Robert Miller, assistant finance director, as of March 1. Nicklas is emphasizing the decision is not based on performance or reflect disciplinary actions, but rather for fiscal purposes.

“I spent the better part of this first month scouring our finances, the budget, and talking with individuals about what we can do that would not compromise essential services,” Nicklas said Thursday. “It was not a quick decision, or an easy decision.”

Nicklas said it became clearer to him that he would have to start looking into upper management roles, and begin discussions, which he said were held one-on-one with each individual for about 10 days.

“I was very frank and honest about it,” Nicklas said. “The one thing I want everybody to know is this is not about performance. This is about the fiscal needs of the organization. What I’ve been trying to do is right size our government based on the level of funding we have.”

According to the agenda, the layoffs would save the city $1,105,258.

“The city council has been unanimous in its policy direction that our new manager’s primary responsibility would be to lead financial re-structuring, resulting in a more clearly-defined fiscal policy,” Mayor Jerry Smith said in a statement Thursday. “It has not been a pleasant thing to do.”

Nicklas said other city personnel, including himself, will have to step up to meet service demands left by the four exiting individuals. He said he has also proposed taking a $30,000 pay cut, effective March 1, to help with budget saving measures.

Nicklas said if the council supports his proposal Monday, the four individuals will essentially have a 30-day notice.

“I expect them to work through that period,” Nicklas said. “I understand this is a period where they may be looking for a job, but the expectation is that they will remain on the job and working professionally, which they’ve all said they intend to do.”

Nicklas said he can’t speak highly enough of the level of professionalism exhibited by Charlton, Holdeman, Thorson, and Miller, as they all came to a decision together.

Council will also vote Monday to officially appoint Jeff McMaster as DeKalb Fire Chief, and Raymond Munch as Assistant City Manager.

Three positions will be eliminated once vacated. Economic Development Planner Jason Michnick’s position will stay vacant when he leaves on Feb. 1, and the deputy fire chief role will stay vacant once Jim Zarek retires Feb. 15. The role of finance director will be eliminated after Molly Talkington’s severance package agreement is completed July 7.

Charlton, Holdeman, Thorson, and Miller, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

This story will be updated.

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