Official: Something's wrong in City Hall

Jessica Reynolds | The Daily StarOneonta City Manager Martin Murphy speaks to members of the Common Council during a meeting at City Hall on Tuesday night.

ONEONTA — Members of the city’s Common Council began Tuesday the process of reviewing City Manager Martin Murphy’s performance on the job, according to officials.

During a meeting at City Hall on Tuesday night, Council members went into executive session to discuss the chosen performance review process, referred to as a “360 Degree City Manager Performance Review.” Murphy was asked to leave the chambers for the duration of the executive session.

Murphy began as city manager in October.

Michael Lynch, Fourth Ward council member, said after the meeting that the action Tuesday was prompted by “dozens of contacts with city workers who are concerned about the management of the city.”

“Something’s wrong,” Lynch said. “It’s obvious that something is broken and we’re going to find out what it is.”

The Common Council chambers were packed Tuesday night with more than 30 city employees and community members who came out for the meeting. Only standing room was available. No public comments were made.

Lynch said the presence of many city workers at the meeting and at a Council meeting two weeks ago was a coordinated effort to show solidarity on this front. 

“When people come out like this, it means one of two things,” Lynch said. “Either they’re not getting the respect they deserve or they feel that they have no voice. It’s important that whoever is in charge of the city respects its employees.”

Council member Larry Malone of the Second Ward said Council members have been working to coordinate the review process of the city manager. He said he feels it is an appropriate time to evaluate Murphy.

“We are beginning the review process,” Malone said. “Perhaps something will emerge.”

After the meeting, Murphy said he did not know what was discussed during the executive session.

“It caught me off guard,” Murphy said. “I don’t have any comment at this time.”

To complete Murphy’s performance review, council members will be paired up and will interview city workers, directors and department heads who have interacted with Murphy, Lynch said.

During the meeting, a packet that will be used to complete these confidential interviews was handed out to Council members and was made available to the public.

Inside the packet, multiple items regarding the city manager’s performance are listed for interviewees to consider. These include the following points, which are to be rated on a scale from “Unacceptable” to “Outstanding:”

Respects your ability and encourages your initiative.

Listens attentively when you meet to express concerns or to seek guidance.

Responds quickly to requests.

Inspires city employees to succeed.

Has a strong understanding of the laws and ordinances of the city, etc.

Responses to these questions will not be shared with Murphy, but the Council will use them to provide information for its performance evaluation, according to officials.

Officials said each pair will set its own schedule regarding when interviews will be conducted.

“I’ll say this,” Lynch said. “There’s been a lot of discussion. And as Council members, we have a duty to look into it.”

In other business:

The Council voted to table the topic of whether it will lease city-owned property to Park Outdoor, a billboard company.

City of Oneonta Police Chief Dennis Nayor and Oneonta Fire Department Chief Patrick Pidgeon each gave agency reports. Both applauded a recent mock drunken-driving accident that was held at Oneonta High School, saying it “sent a powerful message.”

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