Updated at 10:40 after I had time to think about this.
Elaine Johnson broke it on DGreport Wednesday morning after everyone noticed Tuesday night the absence of Village Manager Cara Pavlicek:
she has been placed on a one-week, paid administrative leave. Communications director Doug Kozlowski confirmed the action, but declined further comment saying, in an e-mail, that “it is our policy to not discuss employee issues.”Since then, nothing. With a couple exceptions, most residents have been pleased with how Pavlicek has handled a job that started tough when she was brought in during the Home Rule hubbub, and seemed to have weathered a new Mayor who said during his campaign he would be hands-off compared to outgoing Mayor Brian Krajewski, who had a reputation as a hands-on Mayor.
Pavlicek, who is a board member of the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) Credentialed Manager has held a couple positions in her career.
Pavlicek received a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Washington, and added master’s degree in public affairs from the University of Iowa. While working on her master’s, she landed a student internship with the Des Moines city manager’s office and secured a permanent job there from 1990 to 1995, reaching the level of administrative assistant to the city manager. She then went to La Vista Nebraska as Assistant City Administrator, and was quickly promoted to Acting City Administrator in 1996, and dropping the ‘Acting’ from her title in 1997. In late November 2005 she began her post as DG Village Manager.
In January of 2006, she and Commissioner William Waldack came to loggerheads over Waldack’s attempt to censure then-Mayor Brian Krajewski for violating council policy, an aftershock of the now infamous ‘volunteer firings’.
Since then she has brought in consultants to work with staff and elected officials on how to get things done in a cordial and positive manner, and put into place processes so there would be no surprises for staff and elected officials. She also refined the concept of employing a Strategic Plan, which entailed ranking village needs.
I have had generally positive experiences with her. She can be very determined to take meetings and discussions her way, which ran us into some rough ground, but she was always polite, and listened when I would circle back to what I wanted to discuss (checklists really come in handy in meetings like that).
She also moved some potentially contentious items further down the time-line, as she did in 2007 with the housing issue, which started as an election issue in January, was moved to the Strategic Planning in summer, and waited almost a year from the starting point to get to a report saying there was not an attainable housing shortage. Some on both sides of that issue thought she dragged her feet.
Things have not really speeded up much since last April. If anything, there are more requests for waivers of one week waiting periods than ever, denoting a staff that is running behind.
She has opted to negotiate several contracts herself rather than put out RFP’s, including the $36,000 Nicolay and Dart LLC Lobbyist contract that may be turning into a dud due to Springfield Democratic Party in-fighting. This has speeded things up, but here again Mayor Ron Sandack, during the election, came out strongly for bidding out contracts, and that may have caused some friction. As recently as last week this no-bid trend continued for bond counsel. Commissioner Sean Durkin noted that instance and asked that they at least consider bidding it out, as that is supposed to be policy.
Everyone deserves at least one ‘come to Jesus’ meeting before any job action is considered. If anyone makes mistakes, what matters is the mistake gets fixed and something gets learned along the way so it does not happen again. If the employee cannot make the adaptation, then they must go. To further cloud the issue (and somebody should check me on this, I cannot find the dates) Pavlicek received three raises during her almost three years here so far, two on former Mayor Krajewski’s watch, and one on current Mayor Sandack.
This last absence was her third in five weeks. On March 18th council went into executive closed session to discuss employee matters. That may have been the opening discussion. On April 15th they went onto closed session to discuss land contract negotiation, and employee matters; that would have been the follow up meeting. On April 22 was the tough meeting, after Pavlicek had been removed from Village Hall, to make a final decision. That one probably went on a long time and played out like a jury deliberation.
Her email has gone dark and my efforts to contact her were unsuccessful.
If she is gone, I truly hope this does not spill over to other employees. Tom Dabareiner has been here less than a year and has brought a level of professionalism and service to planning DG has never had with previous directors. Robin Weaver in Public Works has been very good to work with, instituting as policy the concept of moving sidewalks around to save proper mature trees. And Budget Director Judy Buttney actually understands and can demonstrate a mastery of the budget, an ability that sometimes eluded her predecessors. Deputy Village Manager Dave Fieldman also came in under Krajewski, but he seems to keep his nose in his job (which is good). He would seem the likely candidate to replace Cara and maintain continuity with the large workload on the table. Mike Baker, Assistant Village Manager, could slot into Fieldman’s slot, making for a fairly bumpless transition.
The one week leave ends next Wednesday, when there will probably be some sort of announcement. Stay tuned.