RHINELANDER - As the city of Rhinelander works its way through two major road construction projects this summer, it will do so without a public works director.
The City Council voted Monday night to fire Tim Kingman, effective immediately.
The decision came after a closed-door session which involved Council members and Kingman himself.
Mayor Chris Frederickson cast the tie-breaking vote in the 5-4 decision. Alderpersons Andrew Larson, David Holt, Ryan Rossing, and Steve Sauer voted in favor of dismissing Kingman. Alderpersons Lee Emmer, Dawn Rog, George Kirby, and Tom Kelly voted against the move.
Kingman had been on paid administrative leave since June 3. At the time, City Administrator Daniel Guild called the move "non-disciplinary."
However, the city had been investigating complaints into Kingman presented by more than a dozen Public Works Department employees. Fifteen city employees submitted a letter of "full confidence"
in Guild on May 13, leveeing complaints about the department without specifically naming Kingman. The letter referred to a "hostile work environment" under Kingman's control.
Kingman, himself, had presented a declaration of "no confidence"
in Guild in March. Four other city employees signed the letter.
Newswatch 12 reached out to Kingman for comment Tuesday night, but got his voicemail.
In a phone interview Tuesday afternoon, Frederickson told Newswatch 12 his vote to remove Kingman was simply, "Based on the motion before the council." Frederickson did not elaborate further on what led to his vote.
According to a press release Guild sent to media Tuesday evening, the city did not have a separation or severance agreement with Kingman.
"The Common Council has been advised by its legal counsel, Attorney Jim Macy, with the Von Briesen & Roper law firm that as with most employment matters, the city will not make any additional public comments regarding this recent action," Guild wrote.
Guild will serve as interim Public Works Director, as there are "no immediate plans to advertise for the vacancy or fill the position," Guild said.
Work on an $18 million reconstruction project on Stevens Street that runs more than two miles began in April. The Department of Transportation also started work on a $3 million roundabout project at Highways 8 and 47 on the city's west side in June.
"The stress we felt from this to this point seems to be manageable," Frederickson told Newswatch 12 regarding running construction projects in Kingman's then-absence and now firing.
Kingman is the latest in a handful of city employees to either resign or be removed in the last year.
Alderwoman Sherrie Belliveau resigned in December after representing her district for 14 years. In April, payroll and administrative assistant Stephanie Rajnicek resigned, citing "an extreme amount of tension that each day brings."
Also in April, the Council voted to terminate
City Attorney Carrie Miljevich's contract. Miljevich said she was "targeted," the victim of a "retaliatory" vote for standing up to the mayor and City Administrator Daniel Guild.
The city also lost its Street Superintendent Tony Gilman to resignation in May 2017
. At that time, Gilman (who now works in Baraboo) wrote, "I believe Rhinelander, my hometown, possesses a wealth of potential under the right circumstances and I always wanted to be a part of that positive change... Unfortunately, I do not believe that potential will be easily achievable with our current workplace culture."
Frederickson considered Monday night's meeting an overall success, noting the approval of allowing ATV/UTV use on most city streets and plans for significant upgrades and changes to Hodag Park were significant steps in the right direction for Rhinelander.
"Yesterday, we advanced a decade in time [with those steps]," Frederickson said.