Commissioners bicker over Cook County administrator ’s evaluation

Brian Larsen

Cook County administrator Jeff Cadwell’s first yearly job evaluation ended okay for Cadwell, but the process used to conduct it was a mess.

Cadwell was hired in May 2015, and the process used to perform the evaluation was discussed somewhat heatedly at the board’s October 11 meeting.

Commissioners initially agreed that the board chair, Heidi Do-Kirk, and Human Resource Specialist Judy Hill perform the evaluation and the commissioners would follow with written evaluations to be used in conjunction with the process. But board chair Heidi Doo-Kirk said she had asked department heads also to submit reviews of the administrator, which surprised the board.

Doo-Kirk apologized for the misstep but said Cadwell had received either satisfactory or outstanding reviews from department heads, herself, and the commissioners. She also added that not all department heads had gotten their evaluations back to her.

Commissioner Frank Moe apologized to administrator Cadwell for the mix-up, but he felt the review should be done over and he asked that Commissioner Garry Gamble conduct a second review of Cadwell, citing a conflict of interest between Doo-Kirk and Cadwell. Doo-Kirk’s husband is currently building an addition onto Cadwell’s house.

Doo-Kirk replied that she had already conducted the review, and said Gamble, “has as much of a conflict (with Cadwell) as me.” She called for two commissioners to do a second review if one was necessary.

Commissioner Gamble said he was for having two commissioners, the county attorney, and human resources director Judy Hill, work together with Cadwell to do a second review.

“To go back seems hurtful,” said Commissioner Jan Sivertson. “It’s not productive, not effective. What is happening here is that we are creating a lot of drama, a lot of trauma.”

Sivertson called on the board to move forward, to make a better system, and to bring together the best practices used to perform county administrator reviews.

“Maybe we didn’t hit on all of the cylinders this time. Let’s move forward and hit on all of them next time,” Sivertson said.

“Jeff wants to be a better administrator,” said Doo-Kirk, adding that all of the commissioners had identified one area in their evaluations that Cadwell needed to improve upon, and Cadwell had told them he was more than willing to work on that area to make those improvements.

Doo-Kirk also said she didn’t feel the board had clearly defined what it expected from an administrative form of governance when they established it two years ago, and it needed to be better stated to county employees who were sometimes confused about the system now in place.

Commissioner Gamble admitted the process was ongoing, but he cited the work the board had done initially before moving to hiring a county administrator, and added that the board had again talked about how an administrator should work with county employees at Cadwell’s six-month review.

“There is nobody that is good at everything,” said Sivertson, and she noted that since Cadwell had come to work for the county there had been some “profound” improvements to the operation of the county.

“I don’t disagree with Jan,” Moe said. But Moe told commissioners that some county employees who had issues with administrator Cadwell had contacted him, and he didn’t think it would be fair if the board didn’t take their input into account in the review process. He then called for a panel to be formed to determine how a second review could be conducted and to bring that finding back to the board, and to establish benchmarks for the administrator to reach.

Once again Doo-Kirk said Cadwell had met expectations or exceeded expectations in her review and reviews sent to her by department heads.

“This process was not willy-nilly,” said Cadwell, who had waited to speak. Cadwell outlined various steps that had been used to do his review and added if a second one were to proceed, “I don’t know if I want to participate in the process.” He also said, “We have a situation where people want to talk about me and not to me.”

Doo-Kirk called for a vote, and she, Sivertson, and Storlie voted against moving forward with a second review with Gamble and Moe voting to continue. The motion passed, and administrator Cadwell’s job performance will be reviewed next year, hopefully with a better system in place, and a better understanding of how an administrative form of governance works in the county.

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