The Janesville City Council on Thursday changed the way it will evaluate the city manager this year in the hope the process will be more organized than in the past.

The council next month will use the eight essential duties listed in the city manager’s job description to evaluate his performance. The council also will create a work team to review the process and refine it as necessary to set a framework for future councils.

Since City Manager Mark Freitag started in December 2013, the council has lacked an established process to review his performance.

In 2015, some council members proposed incorporating anonymous employee feedback into Freitag’s review because they felt unqualified to evaluate his management capabilities. That idea was scrapped for an employee engagement survey that provided feedback on workplace culture on a broader scale.

During his December 2016 review, concerns raised in the survey about Freitag weren’t mentioned. Instead, as they had for years, council members filled out written forms evaluating Freitag in several categories on a 1-to-10 scale.

“The previous three (evaluations) have been all over the board,” said council Vice President Rich Gruber.

Last summer, the council scrapped previous methods in favor of evaluating Freitag as a body instead of individually. Members agreed to evaluate him in March instead of December, so council members elected in April would have a full year to work with him before reviewing him.

Freitag agreed with both ideas.

The four council members who attended Thursday’s meeting unanimously set the process for this year.

On Monday, March 12, the council will hold a closed session, part of it with Freitag, to discuss how well he has met his eight essential duties. Council members will keep notes to themselves to avoid making them public records.

In the past, individual feedback was given to the city’s human resources director, making it public record. By avoiding that, council members’ critiques and praise won’t be available to the public before they’re finalized in a letter to Freitag, members said.

“I’m 1,000 percent in favor of full transparency,” Gruber said. “But I’m also tempered in my recognition that whatever we do in this particular case is something that is not only subject to the scrutiny of the seven members of the city council and the city manager … but the community at large.”

Council President Doug Marklein and Gruber will use feedback from the March 12 meeting to draft a letter evaluating Freitag’s performance.

On Monday, March 26, the council will meet again in closed session to finalize the letter, which then will be presented to Freitag. The council also will set any salary increases at that meeting.

Freitag will have an opportunity later to formally respond to the written evaluation.

“And that’s been done historically,” Gruber said.

Gruber said evaluating Freitag as a body rather than individually is an improvement over past evaluations.

“It’s certainly more focused,” he said. “It tends to take the personalities out of the process.”

After establishing the process, Council member Sue Conley made a motion to create a work team to document the city manager evaluation process going forward.

“I want something to help future councils navigate through this,” Conley said.

After some pushback from other members, the council voted 4-0 in favor.

Marklein and council members Paul Williams and Jens Jorgensen were absent.

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