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Council cuts position in mayor’s office, causing confusion

By: Brian Louwers | Warren Weekly | Published July 2, 2020

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WARREN — There seemed to be some confusion over the executive administrator position in the mayor’s office, cut from Warren’s 2020-2021 budget approved by the City Council with a list of other amendments offered during a special meeting by Zoom June 30.

When asked for clarification by Council member Ron Papandrea, Council President Pat Green said it was not the position in the mayor’s office currently held by Amanda Mika. Green said Mika actually holds the title of executive assistant, and that the eliminated position was a long-unfilled post of executive administrator in the mayor’s office, once held by Lou Schimmel.

During the audience participation at the meeting, however, several people, including staff members who work with Mika in the office of Warren Mayor Jim Fouts, nevertheless questioned the council for cutting Mika’s job from the budget. Warren City Treasurer Lorie Barnwell even popped in to clarify that was not the case, based on Mika’s title listed on her city email signature.  

“As the mayor stated in his budget presentation to council a few weeks ago, he referred to Ms. Mika as the executive assistant, and that position remains in the budget,” Green said, addressing the matter after Barnwell attempted to clear up the confusion.

But the special meeting concluded and left even more questions after Mika addressed the council at the end of audience participation to say that the council did in fact not only cut her position in the mayor’s office out of the budget, but that they also removed another position she briefly held — a union job as an assistant in the Planning Department — from the budget.

“I am the executive administrator in the mayor’s office,” Mika said. “I sign my emails as the executive assistant because, for years, as you all know, I have been Mayor Fouts’ executive assistant. I still do all the jobs that the executive assistant did, including the additional responsibilities of the executive administrator. However, you did in fact, this evening, remove my position from the budget, so hopefully that clarifies everything.

“I give my life for this city, and you just effectively cut me out of the budget. You also targeted my union position in the Planning Department,” Mika said. “That’s all I have to say.”

The meeting concluded without further comment, but Green later said the council did its due diligence to cut a vacant post based on the title Mika used on her email signature and LinkedIn profile, and based on the mayor’s own statements.

Fouts had plenty to say immediately after the meeting. He took to Facebook to rebuke the City Council for doing “the unthinkable” by cutting Mika’s position from the budget and also “eliminating her union position in Planning.”

“Clearly targeting her with malice and without justification,” Fouts added. He went on to scold what he called the “out of control” council over a series of recent dust-ups ranging from his treatment at a budget presentation, during which Green directed the council office secretary to mute Fouts during a Zoom session, to the council’s decision to dispense with City Attorney Ethan Vinson’s legal services on their behalf in favor of hiring outside counsel.

“There’s zero malice. It’s a budget,” Green said July 1. “We’re cutting the vacant position.”

He said the City Council sought information from the city regarding vacant jobs and opted to eliminate those that were empty for some time and unlikely to be filled.

That included the executive administrator post and an assistant planner position Mika held in 2017 that was the subject of a Civil Service Commission inquiry filed by a Warren resident, concerned that Mika used the move to gain union protection for a city job in the event she ever left or was removed from her position in the mayor’s office.

Mika said she has a master’s degree in urban planning and that she spent six months in the Planning Department before opting to take leave and return to an appointed position in the mayor’s office. She said similar moves between civil service jobs and appointed spots are not uncommon.

According to Mika’s LinkedIn profile, she began working in the office of the Warren city attorney in 2003.

The position of executive assistant in the mayor’s office will pay up to $78,494 annually, according to the proposed 2020-2021 budget. Compensation for the job of executive administrator was listed as $90,857 in the mayor’s recommended budget for the coming fiscal year.

Mika said she makes $90,857 a year after a promotion that became effective in January.  She said the position of executive assistant in the mayor’s office is currently held by Marina Bacalia. All six of the positions in the office are currently filled, Mika said.

“I feel like this was targeted. There are other vacant positions throughout the city that they did not cut,” Mika said. “I work 24 hours. I’m on call 24 hours. I answer emails, take phone calls. Here it is, July 1. I’m still at work.”

A salary disclosure request made through the city’s payroll department was subject to a Freedom of Information Act request, a source at City Hall said.

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