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Acting City Manager Rachael Tabelski

September 15, 2020 - 8:36am

Batavia City Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. is adamant that neither public speakers nor a petition signed by 161 residents will force the board’s hand when it comes to selecting a permanent replacement for City Manager Martin Moore, who left the position on June 20.

 “We’re going to do our due diligence – getting all the information necessary to make an informed decision,” said City Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. following Monday night’s Business Meeting at City Centre Council Chambers.

Since Moore’s departure, Assistant City Manager Rachael Tabelski has been serving as the acting city manager.

Council met in an executive session between a Special Conference Meeting and the Business Meeting last night to discuss personnel matters, with the city manager post at the top of the list.

Jankowski said Council is “gathering more information” and expects a decision of how it will proceed by its next meeting on Sept. 28.

In all likelihood, the choices boil down to interviewing Tabelski and offering her the job, or conducting a nationwide search – utilizing The Novak Consulting Group, the Cincinnati, Ohio-based firm that was used in the search that resulted in the hiring of Moore in 2018.

Because Moore left prior to completing two years in Batavia, the Novak firm guaranteed a “free” search for his successor. However, that doesn’t include costs such as advertising in trade publications, expenses incurred to set up interviews (travel costs, for example) and potential moving expenses for the person hired.

It is believed that those additional costs could reach as high as $15,000 to $20,000.

Previously, Jankowski had reported that The Novak Consulting Group would be available to assist the city at the end of this month.

During the public comments portion of last night’s meeting, Batavians Sammy DiSalvo and John Roach spoke on the matter, coming from opposite sides of the fence.

DiSalvo said he supported a full search, pointing to what he called “nepotism” when Tabelski was appointed to the assistant city manager position in August 2018 while her husband, Adam, was a member of City Council.

“Regardless of whether her husband abstained from that vote or not, that is called nepotism,” he said.

“Now I want to fast forward to September 2020 … and this is the first time we’ve heard from any of you about Novak, the company that did the manager’s search, which you get a free search through if city manager left within two years, which he did,” he added.

“They said they could not start until the end of September. Hopefully, they do start that search and you go down that road, rather than just appointing somebody that was appointed while her husband was in a position of power. I don’t think that is really a way that city government should be functioning and that is not a good way to represent the people of Batavia …”

After expressing his dismay with changes in the City Deer Management Plan, DiSalvo ended his five minutes by producing a petition of what he said was 150 signatures (actually 161) of Batavians “who would like a full city search and do not want somebody who is appointed to the position by City Council.”

Next, Roach stepped to the podium, stating that “I take the opposite view on the hiring of the city manager.”

“I think it’s kind of embarrassing that the nine Council people – five of you haven’t been able to say as a majority – ‘Let’s make a decision.’ By now you should have been able to say in executive session, ‘OK, we’re going to go with the headhunter group or we’re going to hire the current assistant city manager,’ ” he said.

Roach then credited Tabelski for moving city business along.

“Obviously, she must be doing a good job,” he said. “The city is functioning well and I cannot for the life of me understand why you people still have to go into meetings to decide to make a plan to have a plan. Either hire her or say no, ‘you don’t cut it, we don’t want you’ – and let her start looking at alternatives. It can’t be that hard to say yes, you’re our choice, or you’re not.”

He also said he heard that a City Council member placed petitions in some businesses.

“I don’t know if that’s appropriate or not,” he said.

Finally, he mentioned Council’s handling of authorizing more pay for those who have took on added responsibilities in the absence of a permanent city manager.

“I’m also a little disappointed that the last time we didn’t have a city manager, everybody voted to give the other staff that were pitching in to do extra work, extra money. And they were all men,” he said. “This time, the same thing – we don’t have a manager and people need a little extra money for doing extra work, and some of you voted no, but they’re women. Coincidence or not? I’ll let you all respond.”

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