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City’s HR manager on leave

Lincoln officials not saying why
By: Stephanie Dumm News Messenger Reporter
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The city of Lincoln’s human resources manager Debbie Lindh is on administrative leave. The News Messenger first received word that she was on leave Sept. 7, through an e-mail tip. The e-mail said Lindh was “let go Friday,” and that she “went to (Mayor Tom) Cosgrove in confidence, he immediately went to (City Manager Jim) Estep, then she was shown the door.” The News Messenger called Lindh on Friday, asking her if the e-mail was true. “I’m on paid administrative leave,” Lindh said. She added that it wasn’t “appropriate” for her to comment further. Lindh has been the city’s human resources manager since January 2002, according to public information officer Jill Thompson, and Lindh’s salary is $107,774. Estep confirmed Friday afternoon that Lindh is on administrative leave. “This is a confidential personnel matter and the city will not comment further at this time,” Estep said. Estep said he received the same e-mail sent to The News Messenger and that the comment made about Lindh being “let go” after speaking with the mayor is “incorrect.” “I can confirm that, yes, she is on administrative leave but this is a confidential personnel matter. I will give you information when we can,” Estep said. “What I read in this e-mail I’m assuming you’re referring to, there are assumptions made in there that are incorrect.” Cosgrove also confirmed that Lindh is on administrative leave and that he did speak with Lindh recently on a “confidential” subject. “It’s not unusual for me to have conversations with staff and any conversations that I have with staff that are confidential always have and always will remain confidential,” Cosgrove said. “If I have a discussion with his (Estep’s) department heads, I should tell him that. Debbie asked to talk with me, I spoke with her and it was confidential. I didn’t share the details because it was confidential.” Cosgrove said the matter is between Estep and Lindh now. Assistant City Manager/Chief Financial Officer Anna Jatczak said Lindh’s position is currently being filled by Sheila Van Zandt, a human resources analyst with the city of Lincoln. If Lindh is separated, her position “won’t be immediately filled,” according to Jatczak. “We are not doing any hiring right now,” Estep said. Gabriel Hydrick, a Lincoln resident who is also running for City Council, said he has “noticed a pattern of city employees being let go and having consultants brought in in their place.” Hydrick said he’d rather see city employees “stick around rather than having consultants because it’s not as efficient” as having regular city employees. “The trend is (the city) brings in consultants because it’s cheaper, because they don’t need benefit packages,” Hydrick said. “Consultants always come back asking for more money and prices go up so I don’t think you save much money in the long term.” Hydrick also said consultants can be “detached” when compared to city employees. “They are not vested in the community like city employees are,” Hydrick said. In reference to Lindh being placed on administrative leave, Hydrick said it was similar to the separation of Lincoln’s last chief of police, Brian Vizzusi. Vizzusi was separated from the city in February of this year, and The News Messenger was initially told the chief was on vacation. After further investigation, The News Messenger found that the chief was on paid leave. “What bothers me is they were tight lipped and didn’t give any answers,” Hydrick said. “He was our police chief, he was the city’s police chief so it seems like the citizens should have the right to know why he was let go.” Hydrick said this is because the public pays the chief’s position. “We pay for all of the police force to protect us and I see he works for us just like any other government position,” Hydrick said. “I realize there’s some privacy stuff, but to just give general, vague answers, that doesn’t cut it for me.”