The Sitka Assembly delivered its verdict on the city’s top two employees on Tuesday night (4-15-14).
City Administrator Mark Gorman and City Attorney Robin Koutchak each received their annual evaluations; Koutchak’s evaluation took place in private executive session; Gorman elected to have his evaluation done in public.
Assembly Member Mike Reif said his overall message for both Gorman and Koutchak was one of appreciation.
“I am so pleased with both of them,” Reif said. “I am so pleased with the way they work with each other, with their staff and with the Assembly. We have a really high functioning team. You have superior talent both in Mark and Robin.”
That said, Reif and assembly members Pete Esquiro and Aaron Swanson expressed concerned that the city is relying too much on studies done by outside consultants. The city is spending up to $250,000 for an outside firm to develop a solid waste management plan, and considering a similar study to create a master plan for the general fund.
Esquiro said he hoped the city would do more of that planning and analysis in-house.
“We’ve got some pretty talented people that work for the city,” Esquiro said. “You know, they’re very capable, and I’d like to see us use our in-house expertise, instead of some of these studies that we’re authorizing. I don’t think we’re necessarily getting the best work products from outside consultants all the time.”
Esquiro had particularly high praise for City Attorney Robin Koutchak
“She doesn’t speak down to people, but she has the ability to speak in a way that most people can understand her,” Esquiro said. “You know, I’m not a lawyer and quite often I could get lost. But she has a great ability to reword things to where we can understand them, and I think it’s a pretty talented person who can do that.”
For her part, Mayor Mim McConnell said that she was pleased with Gorman’s work during the six months that he’s been on the job.
“I think he’s done very well, and I think he’s been well-received by the municipality,” McConnell said.
Gorman said that so far, he’s enjoying the work.
“It’s an incredibly stimulating job,” he said. “Every day I come to work, I’m not sure what’s going to come through the door, but it’s always challenging and engaging, and it’s a real privilege for me to be in this position, to be serving Sitka.”
McConnell said that both Gorman and Koutchak had proposed going on contract; right now, both are city employees, and covered by the city’s personnel policy.
Gorman said he recommended to the assembly that, as Administrator, he be placed on contract, because it would offer the assembly more flexibility in hiring and firing the city’s top official.
“From their perspective, I think they’re served better by having their CEO under a contract,” Gorman said. “It gives them more flexibility as they move forward. From my vantage point, it’s fairly neutral, but it’s my advice to them that I think it’s a better tool for them for managing their administrator.”
McConnell said the assembly will consider the issue.