"After several interviews and much discussion, the Community Center Board recommends the hire of Michelle Kauten as Community Center Director. We recommend a starting base salary of $37,500 during a 90 day probationary period, after which she may receive the full budgeted salary for this position of $40,000 upon a favorable review by the board."
This recommendation from the Community Center Board was presented to Emmetsburg City Council at their April 14 meeting.
After hearing criticism from Emmetsburg residents on the hiring process and the appearance of "cronyism" or "favoritism," the council voted against the recommendation.
Later, in a second motion, the council voted to bring for consideration at the next council meeting the appointment of Michelle Kauten as Community Center Director.
The letter from Kelly Bay, Community Center Board Chair, continued:
"The board received twelve applications for this position. Of these, we felt that four of the applicants possessed the skills, education and experience to be successful in this position. All four were offered interviews with the board. At this time, one applicant withdrew from consideration citing that he had already accepted a position in another community. Interviews with the remaining three applicants were conducted on April 2. Following the interviews, board members decided that two of the applicants possessed all of the qualities that we were seeking for the director position. In order to make a final decision, both applicants were asked to develop and present marketing materials that would showcase the direction that they felt the community center would need to take. Ms. Kauten responded quickly to this assignment, going above and beyond what the board had asked her to accomplish. The second applicant withdrew from consideration at this point, saying that while she would have been excited for the opportunity, she did not feel that the night and weekend demands of the position would be in line with her future goals.
"Ms. Michelle Kauten has the education, personality and background to get Emmetsburg's community center off of the ground and thriving. She possesses a Bachelor's degree in Hotel,?Restaurant, and Institution Management from South Dakota State University and extensive experience in both sales and management. We are excited to have the opportunity to bring her on board with this project."
"My concern is that we have an appearance of cronyism or nepotism, but the fact is if we don't go an extra step in hiring that position, as a city council, I think the perception is going to be that we didn't go far enough, that we hired somebody because of who they are related to. Again, that's the perception," said Pete Hamilton.
"I would hope that in hiring, whoever it is, that the best person that we can, be hired because that job is going to be monumental in trying to make that thing work and cash flow," he continued.
Echoing those comments, Mike Scott recommended that the council use a company in New York to conduct a profile test.
"The test costs $250 for the first time and they allow you to have somebody test and they will call you with those results. They really do a very good job of uncovering the positives and the negatives," said Scott.
Addressing Councilman Tony Kauten, Dave Nixon commented, "I?think it's unfair to your wife, in a way, because this is the second member of your family that's been hired out there. I?don't know how many people knew that, when the other person that was hired it was your brother-in-law... I think it's going to be a challenge to manage an operation when you have this kind of publicity on employees that are both going to be working out there."
Councilman Corey Gram-owski said, "The other hiree (Matt Hoskins) has nothing to do with the community center. He is a seasonal employee at the golf course and has to re-apply every year. Our (Community Center) board came up with the recommendation that Kelly Bay wrote."
After a motion by Brian Malm, and second by Gra-mowski, to hire Michelle Kauten as the Community Center Director, councilmen expressed concerns.
"I don't think any of our spouses should be applying for city jobs," said Councilman Bill Burdick.
Councilman Brian Campbell added, "I?have some of the same concerns as Bill has as far as hiring the spouse of a council person."
"I have spent the day talking to constituents in Ward 1 and the feelings are mixed," said Councilman Mike Hermanson. "I would like to table (the motion) until I can talk to more people. I have a real issue with relationship, but I also have a real issue with the best person who is determined to have that job."
The motion to follow the Community Center Board's recommendation to hire Michelle Kauten as Community Center Director failed. Voting yes: Malm and Gramowski. Voting no: Campbell, Hermanson and Burdick. Kauten abstained.
Councilman Hermanson later made a motion to reconsider the vote at the April 28 Council meeting. Voting yes:?Hermanson, Campbell, Gramowski and Malm. Voting no:?Burdick. Kauten abstained.
"I want people to show me where the board made a mistake, show me where you don't trust the integrity of Tony Kauten, and what makes you think that Michelle Kauten is not qualified. That will be my research," said Hermanson