AP residents, city officials find Folks’ departure bittersweet

Finance Director Cady assumes interim administrator role

By TEREASA NIMS
Sunday Times Newspapers

ALLEN PARK – Residents and some council members are joyful that former City Administrator Karen Folks was officially ousted from her post Thursday afternoon, but find the estimated lump sum payout of $70,000 to get her out of town quite bitter.

Financial Director Robert Cady was appointed Interim City Administrator.

“She’s been incompetent since the day she started,” former Mayor Richard Huebler said during a special Receivership Transition Advisory Board meeting Thursday. “I’m appalled we are giving her a severance package to get her out of town.”

City Council members voted 5-2 March 5 to approve the six-month severance pay of $47,500 and another $24,000 that she and the city paid in toward her retirement and other reimbursements and entitlements.

“She was in a position to help the city out,” said resident Charles Schumacher after the special RTAB meeting, which held its regularly scheduled meeting the week before in Lansing instead of in Allen Park.

Schumacher said Folks made all these cuts to the police and fire department then showed the kind of person she really was by holding the city’s “feet to the fire” and taking every dime she could.

Former Emergency Manager Joyce Parker, who hired Folks as the city administrator and Cady as finance director, made the motion to sever Folks’ employment. However, she voted against Cady as interim city administrator.

She did not elaborate on why despite being questioned about it by Huebler and Councilman Angelo DeGiulio. Huebler said the whole chain of events is costing him his confidence in government.

Cady wasn’t available for comment Thursday and it’s unknown if he will put his hat in for the permanent city administrator job, which hadn’t been posted on the city’s website as of press time.

Resident Ray McGusson told RTAB members he hopes this time they get it right when hiring a permanent city administrator. He said that according to city ordinance the person should have tact, work well with the public, have good oral and written skills and communicate, saying that Folks had none of that.

McGusson also said RTAB members are out of touch with the city. He said the residents need help and asked the board to help them give more power to their elected officials.

Ironically, after McGusson spoke RTAB member Suzanne Schafer called the next person for public comments which was DeGiulio. She couldn’t pronounce his last name, which drew criticism from residents.

“He’s an elected official and she couldn’t even pronounce his last name,” Schumacher said.

“Yep. They are in touch with what is going on here,” someone heckled from the middle of the audience.

When DeGiulio spoke, he told a story of Folks’ tenure.

“She’s been intimidated, harassed and she was bullied – and it came from our table,” he said. “This may not be a popular thing to say.”

DeGiulio later said he hoped no one thought he was “grandstanding.”

Resident Nancy Simmonds was outraged with the $70,000 payout.

“Even though it was proven this termination was for just cause, you are making us endure the cost,” Simmonds said to RTAB members.

The complaints continued from residents who were beyond belief that the city had to endure such a cost for someone they deemed so incompetent.

Resident Mike Mullins asked that they remove the severance package deal for the next city administrator. Resident Gail McLeod said the severance package was “reward(ing) incompetence” and showed disrespect to the city along with cronyism.

Some residents were even more saddened to learn, Folks isn’t really gone. She will stay on to assist with bond negations regarding the former Unity Studio project at a maximum of 10 hours a week at her current salary of about $55 an hour.

“She may seem incompetent,” said one woman in the audience, “but she sure has found a way to milk a financially strapped city.”

(Tereasa Nims can be reached at tnims@bewickpublications.com)