Ex-Centerville employees voice discord in exit interviews

Wayne Davis, Centerville city manager
Wayne Davis, Centerville city manager

Mayor, council members say staff turnover reflects needed ‘cultural transformation.’

Several former city hall employees say the “cultural transformation” described by Centerville city officials as a key reason for heavy staff turnover over the past year does not paint the full portrait of why people left their jobs.

Centerville officials say a “much-needed cultural transformation of city government” has been at the root of turnover in city hall. Nine department heads or assistants have left Centerville since the beginning of 2018.

Exit interview information obtained by this news organization, reveal a fractured relationship between several of the former employees and management.

• Jennifer Brumby, who resigned in February as Centerville’s human resources manager after serving less than a year. Brumby filled the position left vacant when Jennifer Wilder left in 2018 for a similar position with the city of Oakwood.

•Andrew Rodney, who resigned in March as city planner.

•Maureen Russell-Hodgson, who left her job as community resource manager this spring for a similar job with Springboro.

•Cynthia Ryan, Centerville’s assistant finance director, who left to become Franklin’s new finance director.

•Jonathan Hudson, who left his job as Centerville’s finance director last year to take the same position in Springboro.

•Kristen Gopman, who left her position as assistant to the city manager in Centerville, and took the position of director of Parks and Recreation in Moraine.

•Nathan Cahall, who left his position as economic development administrator to take the administrator position in Plain City.

MORE: Centerville mayor focuses on 5-year plan during State of the City

Ryan’s exit interview notes said, “It was clear I was not welcome here anymore … On Dec. 27 (City Manager) Wayne (Davis) and I had a conversation that I had no warmth or fuzziness — must be somewhere in my life, but wasn’t here. I was cold.”

When asked what she least like about her job, Ryan answered, “the new city manager.” She added she would consider returning as an employee down the road.

Mayor Brooks Compton said that he and council recently addressed the departures after receiving a request from the Dayton Daily News for information on those who left their positions as well as receiving questions from residents.

The city released a 1,027-word statement in which the mayor and council supported Davis’ leadership and revealed council’s thinking of how the city has performed after former City Manager’s Greg Horn’s departure in 2017.

Davis was hired to replace Horn and was given a three-year contract with the city that ends July 21, 2020. Davis previously served as the city of Montgomery’s city manager since 2012, and as the assistant city manager from 2005 to 2012, and as finance director from 2000-2005.

MORE: Centerville names new finance director

“The city experienced the retirement of its 25-year city manager in July 2017 and appropriately recognized his achievements at that time,” Compton noted in the statement, signed by each member of council. “Although significant progress had been accomplished under his leadership, no leadership succession plan was established or presented to the council. It appeared that no staff members were prepared to assume the position.”

Russell-Hodgson said she was leaving because of “a lack of respect of employees by the administration,” adding that she didn’t like the, “dismissive behavior and negative work environment created by the current administration.”

Rodney said he was leaving because of a “general deterioration of management style.” He said there was a pattern of management “calling people out” for mistakes during meetings, “playing Monday morning quarterback,” with a punish first and then ask questions style of management.

Rodney said he would not work for the city in the future, “under current management.”

The city’s statement said the city had developed a negative reputation among citizens, businesses and developers for lack of customer friendly service.

“Council members had engaged in conversations with citizens expressing a wide variety of complaints and concerns that provided ample anecdotal evidence that a negative culture had evolved,” the statement said.

That tension was created between council and staff as “the result of council efforts to advocate on behalf of citizens. The council concluded the negative culture was creating a significant barrier for economic development in the city and was impeding progress.”

Gopman was less critical than others in her review of working for the city, noting that better communication would help people serve the city better. Gopman said employee morale was low in city hall.

MORE: Centerville makes personnel changes in city hall

Brumby said in her exit interview the main reason for leaving her job was that she was offered an unexpected opportunity to join a local law firm. Her major complaint was the fact she was not supplied a laptop and given more opportunities to work outside the office.

High marks for morale and supervisory management methods were given by Brumby, who added that she would consider working for the city in the future.

“I am very passionate about the city of Centerville,” she said in her exit interview.

The Dayton Daily News reached out to the employees who recently left senior or mid-level positions. None wanted to comment regarding their exit interviews. Wilder, Hudson and Cahall did not have exit interviews and declined comment for this story.

Compton and Davis say the city has filled the open positions this year with qualified people that are committed to serving the community and become part of its “cultural transformation.”

MORE: Centerville council: City hall turnover result of 'cultural transformation'

Holly Christmann was named the new economic development administrator to replace Cahall. She comes to Centerville from Hamilton County, where she was employed for 22 years, serving the past five years as director of environmental services.

Mariah Butler Vogelgesang was named assistant city manager this year. A native of Zanesville, Vogelgesang is a graduate of the University of Mary Washington and the University of Dayton School of Law.

In January, Centerville named Tyler Roark as finance director. Roark comes to Centerville from the city of Hamilton, where he worked for more than seven years, the past three of which he served as the budget and evaluation manager.

The city hired Rory Garrity, an attorney who worked as staff counsel for the Cincinnati Insurance Company, as the new human resources manager. She started on the job in April.

In March, Laura Filaseta came on board as the city’s first events coordinator. Filaseta previously worked at Dayton Christian Schools as events coordinator.