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City officials meet privately

Mayor John Stromberg and Ashland City Council members met Sunday at the mayor's house in an informal setting to get to know each other.

The meeting was closed to the public.

Stromberg said he didn't believe the meeting had to be noticed because elected officials would not be discussing substantive issues that relate to council decisions.

City Attorney Richard Appicello was there to make sure the mayor and councilors didn't stray onto topics that are not allowed, Stromberg said.

City Administrator Martha Bennett attended as well, he said.

"I just want us to have a meal together and have some time together. We will talk a little bit about how we work together," Stromberg said before the gathering.

He said he planned to ask council members what practices they would like to continue that they learned from Rick Kirschner.

In 2007, the council agreed to pay $37,000 for several months of communications training with Kirschner, an author and communications trainer whose clients have included Heineken, NASA and Starbucks Coffee Company.

That decision prompted widespread criticism from residents and drew national media attention.

After the communications training began, council members became noticeably more cooperative with each other and their public meetings were more efficient.

Stromberg and Councilors Carol Voisin and Greg Lemhouse took office in January and so did not take part in the training with Kirschner.

Some residents have said the communications training was a waste because former Mayor John Morrison and Councilors Cate Hartzell and Alice Hardesty received the training but now are no longer elected officials.

In his sessions with the mayor and councilors, Kirschner said in 2007 that he wanted to help them understand that each elected official represents a segment of the community that deserves respect and representation. He encouraged them to work toward compromises rather than voting 3-3 on issues and triggering tie-breaking votes from the mayor.