At a City Council meeting on Monday, October 16, City Manager Sheryl Mitchell announced her resignation, effective November 8. In announcing her resignation at the end of the meeting, Mitchell claimed that Mayor Garrett Brown and Mayor Pro Tem Sonya Brown made performance evaluations that contained biased and incorrect information and an intentional, last-minute distribution of the evaluations that did not allow Mitchell the time to prepare a detailed response.
Mitchell, who had held the position since 2014, had one year left on her two-year contract.
In front of a packed city council chambers, community members came together in support of Mitchell and pleaded with her to rescind her resignation. Many left the room in outrage after the announcement.
“It has truly been an honor and a privilege to serve as the city manager for the city of Albion for the past three years,” Mitchell said in her notice. “My original intention was for my performance evaluation to focus on recognizing the value of my accomplishments to date and to address proposals that would address the need to fill capacity in order to keep the city and its operations going in a positive direction.”
Mitchell’s performance evaluation was based on a scale of one to five — one being negative, five being positive — and was voted on by the mayor and city council members. Council members Maurice Barnes, Jr., Lenn Reid and Andy French gave Mitchell an overall score of five. Jeanette Spicer gave her a 4.9 and Marcola Lawler evaluated her at 4.4. Sonya Brown rated her performance at 3.8, and Mayor Brown concluded the evaluation with a 3.4.
Concerns were raised when city workers fill in potholes on Albion College’s campus. According to the Battle Creek Enquirer, Brown said the city workers who initially filled the potholes were not compensated for their work. He also said Mitchell did not check with the city attorney before authorizing work.
However, Mitchell said the city workers were compensated as city employees and paid for their work. Mitchell says only gave authorization for the purchase of asphalt and not for the work. The city was to be reimbursed for the asphalt purchase.
As soon as Mitchell became aware that city labor was involved, Mitchell says immediately contacted the mayor and city council. Albion College has been billed for the labor and agreed to repay the labor costs.
Mitchell said she only submitted her resignation letter to the mayor, council members and the city attorney, Cullen Harkness. Mitchell said it was never her intent to make that statement public and was told that the mayor shared and communicated the information regarding her resignation.
“When contacted by the media […], [the mayor] indicated that the reason I was resigning was because I was about to be fired for the parking lot incident,” said Mitchell. She hoped that the mayor acknowledged they weren’t on the same page and for an apology for the mayor’s misleading actions.
Multiple community members came forward and spoke on behalf of Mitchell. One community member, Keena Williams, addressed the council directly, stating, “My hope tonight is that you think about where we are. Think about the number of people who have come out to show support and what that says. […] The vast number of people in this room tonight is evidence that the best thing for the city of Albion is to work with Sheryl Mitchell.”
According to the city of Albion’s website, Albion operates under the council-manager form of government. City residents elect a mayor and a city council to preside over the city, and the city council appoints a city manager to handle the day-to-day administration of the city. The city manager makes recommendations to the council, and the council acts on business at regularly scheduled meetings.
Before Mitchell’s official resignation, it was also moved that a resolution of the censure of the Albion City Mayor would be postponed indefinitely. A censure is a formal statement of disapproval, and the postponement caused a downpour of objection among the community members in attendance, especially when paired with Mitchell’s resignation. The city attorney made the recommendation for the mayor to abstain from the vote, but Mayor Brown both voted and chaired the vote. Once the postponement was voted in the affirmative, many of those in attendance began to exit the room.
Also at Monday’s city council meeting, there was a brief discussion regarding medical marijuana facilities in Albion. The council was interested in what the city would be doing in five areas of medical marijuana facilities: growth facilities, processing facilities, laboratory facilities, distribution facilities and dispensaries.
Council member French suggested that the discussion be added to a future agenda because of fast-approaching deadlines. He was also interested in the number of people in Albion who have medical marijuana cards to see if they want to support more than just the Calhoun County supply.
The Amazing Rake
On November 5, from 2-4 p.m., AmeriCorps VISTA will be holding The Amazing Rake, an event to help rake leaves in the yards of those with low mobility in the Albion community. Volunteers from Albion College and the community are needed for the event. Residents must be home during the cleanup and volunteers must provide their own bags. Contact AmeriCorps Vista members Andrew Texel and Lauren Freeman for more information.
Klean the Kazoo certificates of appreciation given out
Earlier this month, the Whitehouse Nature Center hosted Klean the Kazoo, an event where volunteers could help clean up trash in and around the Kalamazoo River. Certificates of appreciation for donations at the event were given to the following sponsors: Granger Recycling, Biggby Coffee, McDonald’s and Family Fare.
Photo by Steve Marowski