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New Baltimore Council Questions Mayor's Decision to Change Employee Title, Create Job Description

Mayor Larry Smith says the move doesn't affect the department head's pay.

New Baltimore Mayor Larry Smith's decision to tweak an employee's title and create a job description for her came under fire earlier this week.

Speaking of emails pertaining to Judy Sproat, Councilman Ken Butler questioned why Smith did not go to council for approval of the changes.

"That position was created by a vote of the council," Butler said during the Monday night meeting. "I'd like to see the job description and time table brought to us to approve."

After lengthy discussion from township attorney Jack Dolan and council about Sproat, who was not at the meeting, Smith said, "I am not seeing these emails that you're getting. Now you sit here and chastise me and expect me to know what is going on."

Butler responded that he was not chastising the mayor, but wanted the matter to go before council.

At issue is Smith's decision to change Sproat's title from "director of planning and economic development" to "director of economic development and grant writing."

He said after the meeting that he altered the title because she does not have a formal background in planning. He said the move does not change her annual salary of about $51,000 that is paid by three different city funds.

Sproat declined to comment on the issue when reached by Patch.

The mayor said he also penned her job description because she never had one. Sproat was hired into the role approximately four years ago by previous mayor Tom Goldenbogen. That move was not brought before council for approval.

Butler argued that description should be approved by council because it pertains to a city employee. Since that position did not exist when the city charter was written in the 1970s, he says it's another example of why it needs to be revised. He also said council should rule on the job description and title to avoid any possible lawsuits in the future by employees.

Voters will be asked whether the city should revise its charter Aug. 7. If approved, a that calls for a city manager as opposed to a strong-mayor format.

Dolan suggested the council create an ordinance about Sproat's role and address it at the next meeting. The council is to also discuss other department heads' job descriptions.

Councilwoman Susan Burkhardt called for more transparency in city government, saying she's heard complaints from residents about what they perceive as problems at city hall.

"We fought for this position regardless of who was hired," Burkhardt said, adding they need to ensure they do things correctly. She said that, although there was not a council vote on Sproat's hire, the council wanted her as department head.

During her years with the city, Sproat has worked extensively on efforts to improve the city's historic downtown by and making aesthetic upgrades. She has also been involved in the city couldn't afford.

Smith stressed he was not trying to fire Sproat or cause any problems.

"She has not addressed me with any of this," he said after the meeting. "What are we making such a big deal of?"

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