Surprise proposal for Oak Harbor city staff survey fades away

A proposal for a staff survey that caught Oak Harbor leadership off guard has disappeared.

A proposal for a staff survey that caught Oak Harbor leadership off guard has disappeared just as mysteriously.

City leaders remain coy about what happened.

Many attempts were made over the last eight months by a reporter to contact council members about the status of the survey, to no avail until this week. Mayor Pro Tem Beth Munns wrote in an email that the survey was not distributed, but she did not explain why.

Munns announced in November that the council had developed a survey to take the “pulse” of city staff because of concerns about morale, transparency, the quality of supervision and the willingness of the council and/or administration to listen to workers.

“We’ve been concerned with all the employees, staff — everybody — with all the things that have gone on this year and how difficult it’s been to get thoughts and communications across,” Munns said during a council meeting Nov. 4, adding that the council would hopefully have the results by the end of December.

Apparently not all of the council members were aware of the endeavor. Councilmembers Tara Hizon and Jim Woessner indicated they were surprised by the announcement.

Council member Joel Servatius explained at the time he and Munns created the survey.

Mayor Bob Severns was also take aback by the announcement and said that it was not the council’s role to survey staff. The mayor said he had already been planning to do a survey of his own but was waiting so as not to increase staff’s workload.

In May, Sabrina Combs, the city’s public information officer, told the News-Times that she had no details about the council members’ survey, but that the mayor’s staff survey would be sent out toward the end of the year. Results will be shared with the council during a workshop meeting, she added.

Combs did not respond to an inquiry last week.

The city has experienced turnover in recent months. A city news release said several employees left for new jobs, to retire or because of life changes.

The city is looking for an interim public works director after Cathy Rosen vacated the position.

Rosen was no longer a city employee as of June 15. Last year, Rosen and a former city engineer filed a lawsuit against the city which alleged retaliation against whistleblowing, violations of laws against a hostile work environment, violating public records laws, infliction of emotional distress and gender discrimination. The case is ongoing.

Longtime parks manager Hank Nydam’s successor was on the job for just a few months before leaving. A new manager took over the role this spring. A city engineer also quit and was replaced over the last year.

Both directors for the city’s development services and finance departments began working at the city late last year after their predecessors retired or quit. Several staff members in the building department also recently left the city.

There are seven job postings on the city’s website. Most of the roles are among public works staff, while the others are in the police and fire departments.