Janesville economic director faced choice: Resign or be fired

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Marcia Nelesen
Friday, May 10, 2013

— Vic Grassman, Janesville’s former economic director who resigned March 15, was given the choice to resign or be fired, according to records recently received by The Gazette.

Former City Manager Eric Levitt said in March that Grassman resigned for personal reasons. Grassman is being paid through July 1.

The Gazette filed an open records request with the city asking for records pertaining to Grassman’s resignation. The records released by the city show the parties agreed Grassman would resign and be put on administrative leave, be paid through July 1 and be covered by the city’s insurance through July 31. The city also agreed not to fight Grassman receiving unemployment after that.

Grassman was hired in 2009. His salary was $96,913.

A letter Grassman gave to The Gazette, however, shows he was given the choice to resign or be fired.

Levitt wrote in a March 14 letter that Grassman showed a “pattern of management and performance that is not acceptable.”

Levitt noted he had spent time working with Grassman to improve his performance, but Levitt had not seen much improvement and, in fact, had recent concerns, including inadequate and misleading communications on major projects critical to the city. Levitt pointed out ongoing inaccuracies.

Levitt said Grassman had spent a night in Madison at city expense during a multi-day conference.

“At a time when salary increases and travel are closely scrutinized, this demonstrates an abuse of your discretion,” Levitt wrote.

Grassman responded to the charges in a letter Grassman presented to Levitt and shared with The Gazette. He pointed out his positive job reviews. He said he has formed great relationships with people in the business community. He cited Janesville’s new business incubator and a certified building site.

“My performance evaluations and other accolades I’ve received certainly reflect that (success), and I’m confident a number of folks in this community view me favorably,” he wrote. “I’m being put out of a job for reasons that just don’t add up to me.”

Levitt, reached before he left for his new job in Simi Valley, Calif., said he did not release the termination letter to The Gazette because he viewed it as a draft, which is exempt under the Wisconsin Open Record Law.

An attorney for the Wisconsin Newspaper Association, however, said the letter could not be called a draft because it was distributed, in this case to Grassman. The attorney said it was his opinion the city should have released the letter to the newspaper.

Last updated: 10:37 am Tuesday, July 2, 2013

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