Interim City Administrator Milton Dohoney Jr. will officially be Ann Arbor’s permanent city administrator, after a unanimous vote from the Ann Arbor City Council Monday night.
Initially, Dohoney was hired as interim city administrator for an 11-month contract starting in August 2021. The Michigan Daily sat down with Dohoney in November to discuss his goal to provide stability in local governance.
“My intention was to come here and function, not as a quote interim city administrator, but to function as the administrator, to handle the day-to-day affairs as I would if I were going to be here for 20 years,” Dohoney told The Daily in November. “And so in doing that, it allows me to bring a fresh outside look at how we’re structured, how we’re doing the work (and) to examine closely the issues that we’re trying to work through.”
At Monday’s meeting, Mayor Christopher Taylor expressed his support for Dohoney’s immediate approval as city administrator.
“He is a person of great character, intellect, integrity and vast leadership experience,” Taylor said. “He is plainly and obviously an outstanding city administrator, and we are incredibly fortunate to have him here.”
Prior to Dohoney, the city saw multiple leaders in the role but not without controversy. In February 2020, Howard Lazarus was fired without cause from the job after a 7-4 vote from council. Tom Crawford was then approved as city administrator after Lazarus’ firing but resigned after a year following an investigation that alleged Crawford made discriminatory comments in the workplace. John Fournier then took over as acting city administrator, but received complaints for creating a “hostile working environment.”
Councilmember Ali Ramwali, D-Ward 5, also expressed his support for Dohoney, but described his concerns with the lack of community involvement in choosing the new administrator. Ramwali said that a survey was sent out to city employees on their opinion of Dohoney’s impact on the city, and he said that if he knew he was being considered as a permanent city administrator, he might’ve answered differently. The Daily cannot independently verify the contents in the survey.
“The evaluation itself, and the feedback that we got, was rather incomplete,” Ramwali said. “It wasn’t deep on comments by executive staff. A hair under 100 city employees responded to it and many council members expressed that they had not worked long enough with Mr. Dohoney to answer those questions … and yet we are here tonight to make a very big decision.”
Ramwali proposed a motion to postpone the approval of Dohoney until June 6. Councilmember Jeff Hayner, D-Ward 1, seconded this motion and discussions turned to whether or not a postponement on the decision was beneficial for the city.
Taylor expressed his disapproval of the motion, citing the fact that Dohoney had been working with them for an extended period of time and claiming there was no need to interview him.
“When you have a rockstar, you hand him the guitar,” Taylor said. “When you have a city administrator with the skill and ability of Mr. Dohoney, you hand him the city.”
Councilmember Erica Briggs, D-Ward 5, agreed with this sentiment, claiming that the survey garnered enough of a response to demonstrate the city employees’ support for Dohoney.
“We had exceptional engagement with our senior leaders on that survey,” Briggs said. “His marks from senior staff were all above five … This is an exceptional response.”
Ramwali claimed that it was not about the opinions of Dohoney that already existed, but that due process was needed to ensure the correct decision on the matter was made.
“I will not be here to dispute about the positive effects Dohoney has provided us and the attributes that he has,” Ramwali said. “I am simply asking that good governance be practiced.”
Councilmember Elizabeth Nelson, D-Ward 4, added she has heard residents complain about the limited amount of time for residents to provide input on previous decisions regarding city administrator appointments.Nelson then read out several emails that expressed this sentiment and voiced that she believed this decision was rushed and would result in a negative reaction from the public.
“The decision before us tonight, unfortunately, highlights and underlines just how eagerly this body engages in disingenuous postures with the express purpose of manipulating public perception,” Nelson said. “Community members do watch our meetings, and they are reaching out to me to share what they see.”
The council then voted on the postponement. The vote failed, with Ramwali voting for it.
The council then immediately voted on the approval of Dohoney as city administrator, which passed unanimously.
Daily Staff Reporter Riley Hodder can be reached at email@example.com.