Editorial

Johnson resignation request must be discussed

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

There's been a lot of buzz in Shelbyville since city council member Sam Meek seemingly out of the blue called for City Manager Jay Johnson's resignation at a recent study session. Lots of questions have floated throughout the streets and on social media about the foundation of Meek's demand -- he never gave a solid reason during the session -- causing a great deal of speculation about what, if anything, is going on inside City Hall.

Johnson has been with the city for four and a half years, which seems to be a long term in comparison to some previous city managers. This brings about another question -- why so much churn? Is the city that hard to work for or is the right person not being found for the job?

Little talk had been taking place, to our knowledge, about Johnson until Meek's request.

Now suddenly, after the session, people are debating whether or not he should be here -- and whether or not it's best to have an outsider (Johnson was a former city manager in Franklin and several other cities) or a local person as manager. Adding to that, we've heard the term "yes-man" a lot over the past week.

Ironically, some have said several locals ("the good 'ole boys," as one put it) don't like Johnson because he's not a local "yes-man" while others have said Johnson is nothing but a "yes-man" to certain local people of influence (the other good 'ole boys?). We never realized the term "yes-man" could be so confusing.

We know little about what's happening other than what we've reported. We do not know if there is a reason unknown to us about the validity of Meek's request or anything else pertaining to Johnson. An executive session, set to be held Tuesday evening (deadline for this editorial was before that session), was officially said to be about other pending legal matters. But with all the buzz about Johnson many have questioned if that's the primary reason for the executive session.

Executive sessions prevent the press and public from attending as the purpose of it is for the client (in this case, the council) to discuss pending litigation with its attorney. That is the only exception to the Open Meetings Act that legally allows this type of closed door meeting.

Part of the off-the-record chat around Shelbyville has insinuated that Johnson hadn't done anything wrong, but had upset enough of the "right" people to be pushed out.

Others have asked why several city employees have left during Johnson's tenure, or have suggested personal conflicts with some department heads.

Such problems, if any exist, could be avoided or ended with regular performance reviews.

The mayor and council have the right to conduct annual evaluations of Johnson's performance, according to his contract. Mayor Wallace Cartwright told the T-G Tuesday he was unaware of any reviews having been conducted.

Cartwright added that he has heard "only one or two complaints" on Johnson, from "people who didn't get their way."

From the newspaper's perspective, Johnson has been a professional, respectable man who has been efficient and easy to work with over the years. We see many benefits to having a professional "outsider" manage our city with fresh eyes.

There have been a few times when Johnson has taken issue with stories we've published. Sometimes we've stood our ground and sometimes we've offered clarifications or corrections as a result of our discussion.

We consider open dialogue/feedback with any official to be a normal part of the process, and appreciate his willingness to provide his feedback.

Regardless of the reason for any meetings that have brought Johnson to our office, he has never left without a handshake and a sincere "we can agree to disagree" attitude. Simply put: He has always been nothing but professional to us.

We've tried to gather as much knowledge, off the record, as possible to answer some of these questions and figure out how all of this came about and we are left hearing the same general response.

Though some have said they're not surprised, others, including council members speaking off the record, said the challenge to Johnson's position was a total surprise.

Again, it's hard to determine what's going on -- because, when asked, Meek offered no reason for his action.

His constituents -- and all Shelbyville residents -- deserve better through the vehicle of an open discussion about the city manager's performance and its personnel.Johnson resignation request must be discussed

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