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Kalamazoo Commission Divided On City Manager

John McNeill

A badly divided Kalamazoo City Commission is apparently at odds over the job City Manager Jim Ritsema is doing.

It debated the issue during a two-hour, closed-door meeting on Monday, February 1. Afterwards, City Attorney Clyde Robinson offered few details.

"They asked many questions regarding the legal issues involved in repairing trust and communication between the city manager, the City Commission, and the community."

Ritsema has been in hot water with some commissioners after he initially concealed the firing of former Public Safety chief Karianne Thomas last year. At first, he said Thomas had retired. But records later showed that she had been terminated after controversy over the department's handling of demonstrations downtown in 2020.

After the private debate, Commissioner Eric Cunningham moved that commissioners find a consultant to rewrite their process for evaluating top administrators.

"With this evaluation tool, I really hope that we can find avenues to better hold our administration accountable."

Mayor David Anderson says commissioners must work together, despite their differences on the issue.

"If we're going to get somewhere better, we do have to work together to do it. That's messy, messy work. But it's what we have to do. I don't feel that we have a choice."