E-mail: Successor for city administrator was sought

Public works director was asked to step in as interim

Last month, Jefferson City Mayor Eric Struemph presented his evaluation of City Administrator Nathan Nickolaus’ job performance in closed session. But what wasn’t made public was that the city’s public works director had been approached about replacing Nickolaus.

It’s not clear who approached Public Works Director Roger Schwartze, when or why — city officials are being tight-lipped about an e-mail on the matter that was obtained by the News Tribune through a Sunshine Law open records request.

E-mails from Jefferson City officials show Schwartze, who resigned March 12, had been approached about taking the position of interim city administrator.

An e-mail from Nickolaus to Struemph dated March 12 states Nickolaus had talked Schwartze out of resigning twice in the three weeks before his resignation.

Nickolaus states: “(Schwartze) told me that he would rather have resigned than be appointed interim city administrator, but under pressure conceded in order to avoid total loss of leadership in the city.”

Asked about the e-mail, both Nickolaus and Schwartze declined to comment.

Struemph said it’s part of his responsibility as mayor to make sure there is a good pool of leaders available when needed, and Schwartze is a great leader.

“It’s no secret that our administrator has had his ability to lead questioned,” Struemph said. “I have to look at what’s best for the city.”

Struemph said if he were in a position where an interim city administrator was needed, he would have called on Schwartze. When asked if he had been in that position where he was looking for an interim, Struemph declined to comment, saying “that’s going into personnel.”

Struemph refused to answer additional questions, including:

• Who specifically questioned Nickolaus’ leadership,

• What the issues are with Nickolaus’ leadership and

• Whether Struemph has any regrets about putting Nickolaus into the city administrator position.

Nickolaus was put in the interim city administrator position in May 2011 after Steve Rasmussen was terminated. Initially, Nickolaus said he wasn’t interested in the position permanently. But in July 2011, he announced his intention to pursue the job.

In December 2011, it was announced that Nickolaus had been appointed full-time city administrator. At no point did the city pursue a national search for a city administrator.

On Feb. 26, one day after announcing a $1.68 million budget shortfall, the City Council met in a closed session for personnel, under two subsections: one for the “hiring, firing, disciplining or promoting of particular employees by a public governmental body” and one for “individually identifiable personnel records, performance ratings or records pertaining to employees or applicants for employment.”

Struemph refused to answer a question about whether the same employee was the subject of both personnel subsections.

Council members and Struemph have previously acknowledged that the closed session was used to discuss the mayor’s evaluation of Nickolaus.

Some council members said, at the time, there were concerns that needed to be addressed, but no one provided any detail as to what those concerns were.

The News Tribune submitted an open records request March 13 for all e-mail correspondence concerning the resignations of Public Works Director Roger Schwartze and Communications Manager Michelle Gleba beginning March 11 through March 13. The records requested were given to the News Tribune on March 18 at a cost of $208.48 to compensate for staff time devoted to collecting the requested e-mails. See seven of the 97 emails at www.newstribune.com/e-mails.

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