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Council says 'no' to Ewald
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What the City Would Have Offered

Highlights of the contract the Monroe Common Council rejected offering Rex Ewald for the city administrator position:

• Begins Jan. 1, 2010, and continues until Dec. 31, 2014.

• Annual salary starts at $95,000. Increases to $103,000 if the agreement isn't ended by July 1, 2010.

• 13 days paid vacation for first year, 15 days for 2011, 16 days in 2012, 17 days in 2013 and 18 days in 2014.

• Ewald will devote at least 36 hours weekly to the position until June 30, 2010. After July 1, he'll devote 100 percent of his work time to the position.

• Either the city or Ewald can terminate the contract by July 1, 2010. After that date, 60 days notice must be given by either side.

• A six-month performance evaluation will be conducted on or about June 15, 2010. The city shall specifically consider savings realized in legal and administrative costs as a factor in the performance review. A second evaluation will be held prior to the end of the year, and annually thereafter.

MONROE - The City of Monroe won't have an administrator anytime soon.

The Monroe Common Council voted 6-4 in special session Friday against offering a contract to City Attorney Rex Ewald to be the city's administrator. The council won't be continuing its search, instead opting to wait and see how things work in the coming months.

Aldermen Neal Hunter, Keith Ingwell, Dan Henke, Kent Kallembach, Chuck Schuringa and Thurston Hanson voted against the resolution to offer the contract to Ewald. Aldermen Chuck Koch, Jan Lefevre, Mark Coplien and Paul Hannes voted in favor.

Coplien was upset with the vote, specifically Ingwell's, which was made via telephone.

"I don't know what changed his mind, but something did," Coplien said.

Ingwell, who was out of town and did not attend the meeting, declined to comment Friday.

Ingwell was one of six aldermen who voted "yes" Thursday to bring the contract to a vote. There was some uncertainty as to whether the motion before the council Thursday was to approve the contract or to have a vote on the contract. That's why another meeting was needed Friday.

After Friday's vote failed, Coplien said aldermen may be taking for granted the need for an administrator. He said that because he, Henke and Mayor Ron Marsh are putting in extra time to keep the city running smoothly, some council members might be discounting the need for an administrator. Ewald, Coplien said, could have done work now being done by others.

"City hall is running fine because we have a full-time mayor and two alderman who are putting a lot of time in here," Coplien said.

Coplien said concerns about the mayor casting the decisive vote and a fear of backlash from the public and press were two reasons why aldermen voted against the resolution.

A 5-5 vote would have given Marsh the deciding vote.

"I think some of the aldermen have an issue with the mayor breaking the tie vote," Coplien said. "I think some of them were scared about what people would say, and what would be printed in the paper. Some of them are up for re-election next year."

Hannes called the vote "a very big disappointment."

"I feel it was a big loss for the city," he said.

Coplien and Hannes praised Ewald's professionalism and said he was the right person for the job.

"The department heads, most, if not all of them, were looking forward to working with (Ewald)," Hannes said. "(The vote) let the department heads down and will affect the working atmosphere of the city."

Coplien denied the position was created with only Ewald in mind.

Hanson, who said he opposed creating an administrator position, said he expected the vote based on what he heard in closed meetings.

"Some (aldermen) had a problem with the candidates, and some had a problem with the salary, and some had a problem with both," Hanson said.

The contract that would have been offered to Ewald was to begin Jan. 1 and run through Dec. 31, 2014. It called for him to be paid an annual salary of $95,000 for the first six months, and $103,000 after six months.

Ewald had been chosen by the council over James Mogen of Rice, Minn., the other finalist for the position. There were six applicants for the job. Ewald, Mogen and former Freeport Mayor Jim Gitz were interviewed by the council.

The city has been without an administrator since May 2008. Aldermen redefined the position to include legal duties earlier this year. The job requires a law degree, and its duties include writing policies, ordinances, resolutions, contracts and agreements, and other legal documents; as well as providing litigation, prosecution and other legal services for the city. Human resources duties, including overseeing all personnel matters, also are in the job description.

Henke, the council's president, said the next step for the city is to watch the amount of money spent for legal services closely for the rest of this and for next year.

He said the city may have a new mayor next year - Marsh's term is up in 2010 - and the council will wait to see if an administrator is wanted.

- Times reporter Tere Dunlap contributed to this story.