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Joyce Clark Unfiltered

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Glendale hires new city manager

Posted by Joyce Clark on November 19, 2015
Posted in City Council ActionsCity issue and actionsCity of Glendale  | Tagged With: , | 3 Comments

It has been 17 years and 322 days since the city’s pledge to build the West Branch Library.

Tomorrow, November 20, 2015 the city will issue a press release reporting that Kevin Phelps has accepted employment with the City of Glendale as its new city manager. Currently he has been Deputy Pierce County Executive. Prior to that from April, 1991 to August, 2007 he was Managing Partner of the Landmark Convention Center, the largest privately held convention center and catering operation in Washington State. He was also a city councilmember with the City of Tacoma from 1998-2005. He graduated from Washington State University in 1976 and the Western Governors University in 2013.

The Glendale Star of November 5, 2015 quoted Phelps saying, Phelps believes his best attribute is to serve the council, staff and community.

‘First, I possess significant experience and acumen in the area of financial management. I am experienced in process and systems improvement using tools like Six Sigma Lean, Kaizen and balanced scorecard,’ Phelps said. ‘Second, I have a successful track record of building and developing outstanding leadership teams at all levels within the organization. Thirdly, my leadership style is built on trust and transparency. You cannot govern efficiently without trust. Finally, my resume is uniquely balanced between the public and private sectors.’

He also points out that he has had great success in running businesses, meeting payrolls and dealing with employees and the public.

‘My resume includes a successful career for over 30 years, owning and operating a number of successful businesses in the Seattle – Tacoma area. I know the pressures of meeting a payroll, paying taxes and working with financial institutions. I also have over 18-plus years in the public sector, including serving two terms on the Tacoma City Council, where I learned the importance of developing effective public policy to achieve the goals of the community,’ Phelps said. ‘I worked at the state level with the Washington State Auditor’s Office, where, as Deputy State Auditor, I focused on using performance audits to improve the performance of government agencies. Finally, for the past seven years I have helped lead the second largest county in Washington State. Pierce County has over 820,000 citizens, has 3,000 employees and a $930 million annual budget.’

Phelps also adds that the Coyotes are integral to the city and he would work on improving the relationship between the two.

‘In concert with the council, I would work to establish a relationship that is beneficial to both the city and to the Coyotes. Recently, I was involved at the highest level with the planning and execution of the 2015 USGA U.S. Open Golf Championship, which was held at a golf course (Chambers Bay) that we own,’ Phelps said. ‘I inherited a contract for the event that was crafted before my arrival, which frankly, had some issues that were problematic for both the county and the USGA. I worked closely with the senior leadership team at the USGA to address these issues. In the end, we were able to achieve an appropriate balance within the agreements that met both the needs of the USGA and Pierce County. The Championship was incredibly successful, creating more than $200 million (projected) in economic impact for our region – and the county made money on the event.  Just recently, we have started the process to secure future dates for the U.S. Open.’

‘The relationship with the Coyotes is very important to the city. I am confident I can help establish a positive relationship with the Coyotes that will endure for years to come’.”

Perhaps the greatest vote of confidence is that of Interim City Manager Dick Bowers who reportedly related that he felt very comfortable in leaving the reins of Glendale’s management to Phelps.

Let’s all welcome Mr. Phelps and congratulate him on his new position. May it be a long and mutually beneficial relationship.

© Joyce Clark, 2015

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On the November 26, 2013 City Council meeting agenda was Item 23, an ordinance revising employee unclassified and classified positions as well as a revision of Human Resources Policies 201, 513 and 514. It was an item that council tabled and directed to be brought to a workshop — as well they should have.

As Councilmember Martinez stated there had been no review or discussion of this item prior to its appearance as an ordinance that night. City Manager Brenda Fischer took full responsibility for not bringing it to council prior to the vote. She should have. This ordinance, if approved, will be a blatant and naked accrual of more power to the City Manager and a diminishment of employee rights. Instead of former City Manager Ed Beasley’s “iron fist” we now have current City Manager Brenda Fischer’s “velvet glove.”

If I were a city employee I would be concerned. Currently the “at-will” employees are:

  •  City Manager                        1
  •  City Clerk                             1
  •  City Attorney                        1
  •  City Judge                            1
  •  Assistant City Judges             5 estimated

Under the proposal add:

  • Assistant and Deputy City Manager level positions
  • All department Director/Assistant Department Director level positions
  • All employees, exempt and non-exempt, assigned to positions in the legal department (includes City Attorney’s office and Prosecutor’s office);                            
  •  assigned to positions in the City Clerk’s office;                                        
  •  assigned to positions in the Mayor’s and City Council offices;
  •  and all classified employees in their introductory or probationary period of employment.

Under the current system reflected in the FY 2013 budget there are approximately 9 positions (estimate of number of assistant city judges is 5) that are unclassified and are considered as at-will. Under the proposed “velvet glove” system the number grows to approximately 120 positions. That number does not include “all classified employees in their introductory or probationary period of employment.” My math can be shaky but it appears to be a 1,000% increase planned in the number of at-will employees and that does not include probationary employees.

What are the differences between classified and unclassified employees? The major distinction is that unclassified employees have no right of appeal or right of grievance should they be fired. There does not have to be a “cause” to terminate. Consider them to be contract employees. There is no permanence or stability associated with the job. They are salaried employees who earn no overtime pay. There is no annual merit or “step” increase. Rather increases are based upon performance and productivity.

Retirement “vesting” and benefits can be different between the two systems. Unclassified employees can usually vest in retirement immediately while there is a waiting period for classified employees.

A classified job offers an individual job security and stability. Security at work has been demonstrated to improve and to enhance the individual’s performance. In the private sector companies that offer permanent jobs understand the need of promoting higher levels of job satisfaction to improve workforce performance. A classified employee will generally receive more employment benefits and bonuses like health insurance, pay raises and holiday pay.

There is no right or wrong position on these job classifications. Younger, more mobile workers seem to prefer at will employment while older persons are more comfortable with the security of job stability.

However, this new proposal raises a myriad of questions and concerns:

What about the issue of subjectivity? What if a department head has an assistant department head that does terrific work but their personalities clash? There exists the potential for abuse.

What about public safety? Do department heads and assistant department heads in police and fire become unclassified? If so the estimated number of 120 will grow substantially.

What about those employees currently in their introductory or probationary phases? Did those that already accepted employment from the city choose stability or mobility? If it was stability did they unwittingly forego another opportunity at another city assuming that once they passed their current probation they would have a stable job? In this new proposal once they finish probation after January 2, 2014 do they become at-will, unclassified? If so, over time, every employee will become unclassified. The proposed ordinance specifically states, “Legislative note: The expansion of the unclassified service to include employees hired and or promoted on or after January 2, 2014.”

The ordinance also states, “Unclassified employees are entitled to all regular benefits and leaves unless otherwise provided in the human resources policies and procedures.” How long will it be until unclassified employees see revisions to HR policies and procedures?

Then there is the description of classified service within the ordinance, “The objective of this service is to provide public and management services covered by a fair and nonpolitical system of personnel management for the City of Glendale.” Those seem to be desired outcomes in municipal government. So why the proposed change? It goes on to say, “The unclassified service is made up of employees in positions where administrative necessity dictates that the position be more responsive and accountable to city policy.” Is the unclassified system inherently more subjective and political? Yes.

The City Charter under Article III, Section 3, (3) states the City Manager has the authority to “appoint, and when deemed necessary for the good of the service, lay-off, suspend, transfer, demote or remove all department heads, officers and employees of the City subject to such merit system regulations as the Council may adopt.” However, only classified employees are subject to the merit system and even if the City Manager wished to get rid of a classified person there are protections in place that must demonstrate cause. The council may make all the adjustments it wants to the merit system but they will only apply to classified employees whose numbers in this proposed scenario seem to diminish over time.

Another sentence has been added in this section, “The City Manager delegates the Human Resources & Risk Management Executive Director as the decision making authority with regard to the entire recruitment and selection process.” It is worded carefully for it appears that the HR Director can select candidates for positions but the ultimate hiring and firing will be done by the City Manager.

Why was this proposed? I’ve been told by sources that it was adopted by the City Manager after she had to appear before the Personnel Board in the matter of the Don Bolton termination. A different source suggested Mayor Weiers’ love of all legislative practices and procedures (this model is used by the state legislature) drove this initiative. Weiers has tried to have several state legislative practices adopted but what works at the state level does not always work well at a local level.

What justification is offered by either the City Manager and/or the HR Executive Director for a major change in personnel classification? None — apparently.  In the City Council Report under Purpose and Recommended Action the proposed action is described but its purpose is not.

Why the reluctance to offer the purpose of such a major change? We are certain to hear that this proposed system offers flexibility in a changed work environment. Sounds like double-speak, doesn’t it? Make no mistake. This scheme centralizes power in the City Manager’s office. As elected officials leave so, too, will their staff under this proposed system. It can get really expensive in short order.

It was extremely prudent of council to table this proposal for future discussion at a workshop. The questions are many:

* Why is this major policy change necessary? And do not accept the answer of flexibility.

* Exactly how many employees out of the 1,000 plus will become subject to this policy?

* Will it apply to all new employees throughout the organization after January 2, 2014? From that date forward, once they have finished probation, will they be unclassified?

* How does such a policy change affect future budgets? What is the anticipated cost of moving to such a system? Add 20% to any staff estimate, if they provide one.

* Will department heads and assistant department heads in public safety become unclassified? If not, why not?

* Is the City Auditor and her department employees unclassified? If not, why not?

* Who will have the ultimate authority for hiring and firing unclassified employees?

* And most importantly — What practices will be implemented immediately and prior to a council vote to prevent any potential abuses including that created by subjectivity?

 

© Joyce Clark, 2013

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This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to :http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

In response to a request for any information about the cast of characters or the city hall environment in my Mushroom blogs I received emails, anonymous of course, from presumably city staffers, past and present. I do not know these email authors and their identifiers are names like “concerned citizen” and “deep throat.” From the insider information revealed it is quite clear that they are/were city personnel. Their messages lead me to believe that even with a new City Manager there remains an atmosphere of fear and intimidation.

I pulled some quotes that exemplify the majority sentiment of emails received to date. For example, “There were essentially 2 management teams – Ed’s inner circle & the leadership team.” It makes one wonder which group had the most juice.

Or this, “At agenda review it was a precursor to Council meeting where you were drilled & drilled…sometimes there was pre agenda review before the actual agenda review.” At one time I knew (now long since forgotten) which staffers were tasked with playing the roles of various councilmembers and that at times everyone would crack up because some staffers were really, really good at mimicking certain councilmembers.

There was tension at the time between Schurhammer and Carmicle. We get a glimpse with, “There was also bitter, AND I MEAN BITTER feeling between Budget & HR. Budget office had lots of problems getting info from HR.” A generalized assessment of Alma Carmicle as HR Director seems to be that she was in way over her head and relied heavily upon her staff.

With regard to the 4 staffers that either resigned or were terminated, “They were merely Ed’s good soldiers. And, yes, I get the fact that they should of (sic) told people, but everyone needs a job.” This comment brings up the proposed hotline for employees. With a hotline voices can be recognized and IP addresses can be found. Anonymity is not guaranteed. Consideration should be given to an Ombudsman who must remain neutral and can legitimately investigate allegations while maintaining the anonymity of the employee.

There are questions about Candice MacLeod’s expanded and more prominent role as Auditor with, “Candace McCloud now reports to Council. As I recall in the Charter, only certain positions report to Council and that was not one of them! Doesn’t that require a change in the Charter????” This is a concept that requires further specificity. The Charter states the City Council hires/fires its four direct appointees: The City Manager, the City Attorney, the City Judge and the City Clerk. On a regular basis these 4 appointees submitted either monthly or quarterly reports directly to the council. With this new scheme the City Auditor is not a council appointee yet must report directly to council. There will be an inherent conflict as the City Auditor is hired/fired and supervised by the City Manager. Who takes precedence? It would appear that would be the City Manager.

Lastly all agree on this, “Julie Frisoni was part of Ed’s inner circle. She knew most everything that went on and she was very much aware of the money situation.” Or, “She (Frisoni) framed every major press release and all information had to go through Marketing.” Another comment was, “She is unqualified to be in that position. As far as I know she does not have a Master’s Degree which HR policies says (sic) you need for that position.”

There you have it. Some brave staffers have found a way to weigh in. Please keep those emails coming to clarkjv@aol.com. Your voices are an essential part of the story.

©Joyce Clark, 2013

FAIR USE NOTICE
This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to:http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Instead of its regular meeting time of 1:30 PM the Tuesday, August 20, 2013 council workshop meeting will convene at 9 AM. The 64 million dollar question is will Councilmember Alvarez show up or call in? She’s on the injured reserve list once again. If she does show will pain medication affect her performance or lack thereof?

They will begin with an Executive Session to meet the candidates for the City Attorney’s position. Do we know how many finalists? Do we know who they are? At least when the City Manager’s position was up for grabs we knew a smidgeon about the finalists. This time there is a cone of silence.

prayerThe most interesting and possibly contentious issue for open workshop discussion is to pray or not to pray at the start of the evening meeting. FYI: Only Phoenix has prayer before its council meeting. The cities of Gila Bend, Winslow, Apache Junction, Litchfield Park, Benson and Florence have invocations before their meetings. What’s the difference between an invocation and a prayer? According to the dictionary an invocation is the act of asking for help or support from anyone or anything.  A prayer is a spiritual communion with God or an object of worship. Is it appropriate to start council meetings with a prayer? You can weigh in by participating in my unscientific poll to the left of this article. This issue could become a moot point of discussion as this fall the Supreme Court will take up the issue of prayer at town meetings as it hears the Greece, New York case.

After their discussion of prayer council will move into another Executive Session where once again they will receive information about the external audit. Apparently the audit has been completed. If that is the case, it’s time to let the citizens of Glendale review the result. After all, taxpayers paid a hefty price for it – a half million dollars. It should be presented to all on a gold plated serving tray! Come on, council, it’s time to give it up and direct staff to post the results on the city’s website.

The other item of note in Esession is discussion of the IceArizona management agreement. What could this be about? The council approved the contract with IceArizona with its public vote on July 2, 2013 followed by the sale of the team by the NHL to IceArizona.  Is the contract still under negotiation?  That is the only way it can be discussed in Esession. Here is the exact verbiage used: “Discussion and consultation with the City Attorney and the City Manager to receive an update, consider its position and provide instruction and direction to the City Attorney and the City Manager regarding Glendale’s position in connection with agreements associated with arena management, the Arena, and the Hockey Team, which are the subject of negotiations (bold emphasis mine). [A.R.S 38-431.03(A)(3)(4)(7)].” Note that discussion is permitted in Esession while the negotiations are in progress but negotiations were concluded with council’s vote on July 2nd. Hmmmm…

©Joyce Clark, 2013

FAIR USE NOTICE
This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to:http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

External Audit coming…

auditAt the Tuesday, March 26, 2013 City Council meeting an agenda item will be a vote of approval to hire Haralson, Miller, Pitt, Feldman & McAnally (HMPM), P.I.C., a law firm, to perform the special external audit this council has been craving. It doesn’t come cheap. The cost of this contract is $200,000. HMPM will subcontract out some of the work to Butler, FFG, and ESI. It is not clear from the staff report what would be the scope or responsibility of any of these firms. It is also not clear what their specialties are.

The costs per hour range from a high of $400.00 per hour for a principal to $100.00 per hour for a paralegal/law clerk.  Simple math shows that the number of hours billable for this contract range from 500 hours (about 12 ½ weeks) to 2,000 hours (about 50 weeks). This exercise could be completed in 3 months to a year. I think we can expect it to be completed this summer.

This is not a budgeted item and is not included in the current Fiscal Year 2012-13 adopted budget. That means that the money will have to be allocated from somewhere in the budget. Look for the payment of this contract to come from the $17M set aside for an arena lease management agreement. By the time this council’s agenda is met we won’t see much of the $17M left to pay anyone to manage the arena.

Bowers

Dick Bowers
Courtesy of
Linked In

A new Acting City Manager…

Expect at this same council meeting the hiring of Mr. Richard Bowers, former Scottsdale City Manager, as Glendale’s Interim City Manager until the search and hiring of a permanent city manager is completed.

A new Acting City Attorney…

Expect the council to approve Mr. Nick Depiazza, current Chief Deputy City Attorney, as the Interim City Attorney, until a permanent City Attorney is found and hired.

Budget meetings slated for this coming week…

On Wednesday, March 27, 2013 and Thursday, March 28, 2013, council will participate in two budget workshopsbudget 3 starting at 9am each day. This year’s budget workshop book is a hefty 284 pages of reading guaranteed to entertain and delight. Just crank up your printer, go to the Glendale website, find the agendas under the City Clerk’s page and you can print your very own copy just as I did. If you know where to look you will be able to spot the shifts in policy based upon where this council allocates available resources.

coins 1Still looming is how this council will address the loss of $22M in revenue currently being earned by the sales tax increase slated to sunset in 2017. The general feeling among council is that the city will have recovered by then and will easily absorb the $22M loss in sales tax revenue. There appears to be no will to be fiscally prudent and continue with cuts in anticipation of that loss of revenue. If they do not have the will to make gradual cuts each year for the next four years, they will be forced by circumstance to make draconian cuts in 2017. It’s very simple; karma catches up to you every time.

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