City manager responds to mayor’s charges

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published February 1, 2012


Troy City Manager John Szerlag released a measured response to Mayor Janice Daniels’ position paper on the transit center that she read at the Jan. 9 council meeting, but wouldn’t comment further on the matter.

When Councilman Dane Slater asked Szerlag if he wanted to read his response out loud to the council, as Daniels did, he said no.

“I’d as soon have the letter speak for itself,” Szerlag said.

“I appreciate your response,” Slater said. “It was necessary to have a response.”

In his response directed to Daniels, Szerlag begins, “Your above reference position paper, which contains many more topics than the transit center, is filled with inaccuracies and has damaged my reputation. As such I am compelled to respond.”

Daniels’ position paper stated that she has no confidence in the city manager’s ability to perform his duties. She also stated that project’s business model is fundamentally flawed, and information disseminated by city management has been politically one-sided in support of the project. She said city staff failed to keep the full council informed on the matter, the project’s drop-dead date has passed, and more.

Szerlag said Daniel’s charge that city management has been politically one-sided in support of the transit center project is false. “As city manager, I do not work for you,” he stated. “As point in fact, I do not work for any individual council member. I work for a governing body. … City management then carries out policy directives in accordance with council resolutions and ordinances, something we have done for the last 10 years with regard to the transit center.”

Addressing the “drop dead” project date, he said, “the Dec. 19, 2011, ‘drop-dead date’ for approval of the architect/engineering contract was needed to meet the two-year time limit required by the Federal Rail Administration to open the transit center by Oct. 1, 2013. Because the project was approved subsequent to Dec. 19, 2011, we can no longer meet this deadline.”

Szerlag went on to explain that the Federal Rail Administration has indicated it will consider any reasonable request for an extension and pointed out that a transit project in Dearborn, which is in the finals design phase with the architect/engineer, will also need to request an extension.

In her letter, Daniels’ also said city staff members had opened mail addressed to her without her consent.

In response to that, Szerlag said that, as a matter of practice, clerical staff open mail addressed to current and former mayors, city managers and department heads. He said the only exception to that practice is when mail is marked personal and confidential. Some mail is time-sensitive, and much of the correspondences can be handled by clerical staff for efficiency, he said. He noted that staff members have since honored her request not to open her mail, and she is the first Troy mayor to make such a request. Further, he said, she is the first elected official who has said she will record meetings and conversations with city administrators.

“Basically, I stand by the statements I made in my position paper with regards to the merits of the Troy transit center,” Daniels said. “Manager Szerlag and I definitely have a difference of opinion, and I still believe we can work together as professionals. That is sincerely one of my goals.”