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Joyce Clark Unfiltered

For "the rest of the story"

It has been 17 years and 233 days since the city’s pledge to build the West Branch Library.

Slavin Management Consultants, the firm hired for the city manager search, should be presenting its list of finalists to the city council at any time. What should the Glendale city council consider in choosing finalists?

During my 16 years on city council I worked with various interim and permanent city managers, Dr. Martin Vanacour, Ed Beasley, Horatio Skeete and Dick Bowers. I never worked with Brenda Fischer which was probably a good thing. I think we would have butted heads from day one and I quickly would have been at the top of her *hit list.

What qualities did these city managers possess that served them, the city council and the people of Glendale well? One major quality was that of responsiveness to anyone and everyone. Under Dr. Vanacour it didn’t matter if a citizen was a ditch digger or stock broker. If a citizen called his office, without fear or favor, every issue received a quick and efficient response. Sometimes an issue was resolved to the citizen’s satisfaction…sometimes not but every issue got an answer…not in weeks but in days. The same occurred with councilmember questions and requests.

Another quality that stood Dr. Vanacour, and now Dick Bowers, in good stead there was, and is, no favoritism shown toward any councilmember. All were, and are, treated equally and with respect. Information provided to one councilmember was also provided to the rest of the council. Neither had or has a reporting system where employees are required to report every interaction with a councilmember to the city manager’s office.

Council requires a city manager that shares information willingly and openly and in a timely manner with city council and citizens. Many of council’s previous decisions during the tenure of Ed Beasley were made in either a vacuum or with ginned up information designed to get council to approve a specific outcome. Dr. Vanacour practiced sharing complete information and Dick Bowers is doing the same. If Dick Bowers were willing, Glendale could not do better than to hire Dick Bowers on a permanent basis. However, Mr. Bowers is retired. He graciously agreed to serve short term in Glendale’s hour of need. He wants to be retired once again and to spend time with his family and friends. He’s earned it.

The next city manager must show that he or she truly respects and values all employees within the Glendale governmental family. For too long Glendale’s employees have experienced a work atmosphere based upon fear and favoritism. The city manager must show no bias toward any specific department and make financial resource decisions and recommendations to council based upon the most effective use of taxpayer dollars.

The city manager’s fiscal philosophy should be a conservative one. He or she should believe, as a core principle, that a government’s fiscal decisions are not based on tax increases or growing the size of government. Glendale has learned the hard way that it’s not the size of government that determines the quality of service to its citizens. It learned that the same superior service delivery can be accomplished despite the reduction in the number of employees delivering the service. It’s an individual’s commitment to excellence that counts…not the number of employees on the payroll.

Council should look for a city manager with extended experience, intelligence and adaptability. The last thing the city needs is someone who has been a department head or assistant somewhere. The city needs a city manager with city manager experience and knowledge. The candidate has to have the requisite knowledge and flexibility to hit the ground running.

Lastly, the new city manager must learn to love Glendale. Dr. Vanacour did and still does to this day. Mr. Bowers, retired city manager of Scottsdale, has always exhibited a love for and genuine concern for Glendale. That is obvious in his commitment to serve as its Interim City Manager. Glendale owes Dick Bowers a great deal.

I would strongly suggest that the citizens of Glendale are offered the public opportunity to “meet and greet” all of them before the final selection. This is so important for Glendale and gaining public support at the outset will help smooth the transition to a new city manager. A “meet and greet” not just for stakeholders such as Chamber of Commerce folk or college presidents but for ordinary citizens who take an active interest in and participate in their local government.

In summary, it is my hope that city council will weigh and measure these qualities of the city manager candidates very carefully:

  • Responsiveness to all
  • Respect for all
  • Practices open government
  • Respects and values all employees
  • Conservative fiscal philosophy
  • Previous city manager experience
  • Intelligence and adaptability
  • Willingness to embrace the entire community

© Joyce Clark, 2015

FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have 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, democratic, 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 and 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 the March 13, 2014 edition of the Arizona Republic there is a story by Paul Giblin and Craig Harris entitled Contract violated Glendale Policies. Here is the link: http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/glendale/2014/03/13/contract-violated-glendale-policies/6359209/ .

It reports that former City Attorney Craig Tindall may have used his influence to award a no-bid contract for the city’s external audit to a friend, Jose de Jesus Rivera of the firm of Haralson, Miller, Pitt, Feldman and McAnally. Apparently Tindall was close enough and comfortable enough to Rivera to send an email on his city computer soliciting tax exempt tuition funding for his son.

Typically contracts over $50,000 are required by city policy to go out to bid as a Request for Proposal (RFP). As a professional services contract that requirement may not have been necessary but there remains a question of undue influence. Surely for a contract of this dollar amount, while not required to go to bid, it may have been prudent to do so. Members of the Glendale City Council seem to be shrugging their shoulders while kicking the can down the road and alluding to “that’s the way it has always been done.” They don’t want any part of this latest debacle.

By the end of the external audit the cost would be over half a million dollars, ten times the amount required for an RFP. Rivera thought there would be an RFP and asked Tindall via email about its timing and release. Instead Tindall submitted a memo to then Interim City Manager Horatio Skeete recommending the use of Rivera and his law firm. Skeete wanted to put the contract out for bid and to issue an RFP but for reasons unknown that did not occur. The result of the external audit was to place blame on Skeete and to completely exonerate Tindall. Could it have been that Rivera, as Tindall’s friend, was well aware of the bad blood between Tindall and Skeete? As friends it appears plausible they may have discussed it. Did that knowledge play any role in the final outcome of the external audit? It seems to be worth your consideration and your decision.

Was the external audit result payback to Skeete by Tindall for having lost his bid to become Interim City Manager? It there a connection between Tindall’s failed attempt to become Interim City Manager and the audit conclusions? You will have to decide. It was a bloody battle for the position of Interim City Manager. Tindall’s supporters on city staff lobbied me and I assume, the rest of council, disparaging Skeete. No such effort occurred on the part of Skeete or any supporters he had. During this period Tindall apparently stalled contracts and other documents on his desk seemingly in an effort to further bloody Skeete’s nose. Council was evenly split between the two candidates and it was Alvarez who broke the tie in favor of Skeete. It appears that Tindall wanted the position far more than he was willing to admit publicly and was disappointed that he did not prevail.

The Republic story goes on to say that Tindall is under on-going investigation by the state Attorney General’s regarding the issuance of this no-bid contract. He is also under an on-going investigation by the state bar as a result of a complaint filed by former Councilmember Phil Lieberman regarding a presumed conflict of interest. Lieberman’s complaint alleges Tindall was employed by the city while he also was general counsel to IceArizona, successful bidders on the Jobing.com Arena management contract, constituting a conflict of interest. I do remember a conversation had with Tindall during the period of the Jamison bid for the arena management contract and his assertion that he was talking to other “serious” bidders ready to come forward if the Jamison bid failed. Was Anthony LeBlanc, of IceArizona, one of those “serious” bidders? How much information about the Jamison bid was shared with these “serious” bidders? Skeete alleged to me, and presumably other councilmembers, that Tindall appeared to be holding up negotiations as the Jamison contracts sat on his desk for inordinately long periods of time. When Skeete was queried as to his awareness of the most recent Jamison contract amendments, his response was that Tindall still had them and he had not seen them. Were these actions by Tindall more payback to Skeete or even worse, was it an attempt to railroad the Jamison bid in favor of these other “serious” bidders? I don’t know and don’t know if we will ever find out. All we know is that there are connections – between Tindall and Rivera; Tindall and Skeete; and Tindall and “serious” bidders for the arena management contract.  What part these connections played in the outcomes is yet to be discovered.

© Joyce Clark, 2014

FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have 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, democratic, 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 and 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.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014 was the regular city council meeting…and I had choices, so many choices. Go to a Coyotes game vs. the LA Kings, watch the President’s State of the Union speech or watch the Glendale city council meeting. Hands down, no doubt about my choice. I chose to go to the game and what a game it was! It was the Coyotes of old. They played with consistency, passion and fire. They couldn’t help but win, 3-0, with that kind of play. It reminded me of the very first games I attended several years ago. I hope the Coyotes are back.

The council meeting had two hot topics: the purchase of a fire truck and the move to move public comment to the end of the meeting and limit speech from 5 minutes to 3 minutes.

The fire truck issue arose when Andy Evans, an attorney for Frank Leonard, owner of the country’s second largest vendor, spoke during Public Comment. Both gentlemen alleged that the city’s procurement process was flawed and that different specifications were provided to different vendors. The budget for the new fire truck was $425K yet the final purchase rose to $486K. Hmmm…something is rotten in Denmark. Did fire make sure a crony received the contract? City Manager Brenda Fischer pulled the item from the agenda and said she had questions. Based upon the information provided to her she would either bring the item back or start over. As City Manager she should have had information about this item and should have been prepared to share it with council.  At the very least she should have received the necessary information through a Fire Department Memorandum. Who is in charge?

The item that drew extensive comment was item #11 which would change the public comment to the end of the meeting and limit speaking time. The usual suspects spoke against the proposal: Ken Jones, Gary Livingston and the Marwicks. What was truly eye popping was Andrew Marwick’s attempt to explain why they reside in Phoenix yet speak at Glendale council meetings. Marwick’s premise was he had once lived in a city similar to Glendale with the same kinds of issues and that he was merely sharing the benefit of his knowledge from that previous situation with Glendale. His attempt to explain himself resulted in a rambling dissertation which was brought back to earth by the Mayor’s and the City Attorney’s admonishment to speak to the agenda item. If nothing else and I assure you there is nothing else…the Marwicks have a lot of chutzpah.

Whether Public Comment is at the start or at the end of the Council meeting is not a critical issue. Glendale has always invited public comment and televised it as well. Council has always listened respectfully to citizen comment…some more respectfully than others. The former Mayor Scruggs would roll her eyes and purse her lips, virtually sneer, when she disliked or disagreed with the comments being offered.

What should be of concern is this council’s move to limit free speech by cutting public comment from 5 minutes to 3 minutes. Not everyone is a polished speaker and should be allowed the time some need to get to their point. The only occasions when speaker time has ever been an issue in the past were related to discussions of Coyotes’ ownership deals over the years. The truncating of speaker time to 2 or 3 minutes made sense on those occasions especially when the comments were repetitious. Mayor Weiers made a good point when he said the mike and TV were very powerful…and they are. They provide citizens with an opportunity to gain a wider audience for their point of view.

Councilmembers Knaack, Martinez and Sherwood all expressed the general opinion that they were not taking anything away from the right to public comment while ignoring the fact that they were indeed LIMITING free speech. Weiers and Alvarez defended the current practice. Weiers said he would give speakers 10 minutes each if he could and Alvarez said there was a sense of a “power play” taking place. Councilmembers Hugh and Chavira were silent on the issue. The votes were done by roll call at the request of the Mayor. Councilmembers Sherwood, Knaack, Martinez and Chavira voted for moving public comment to the end of the meeting and limiting speech to 3 minutes. Mayor Weiers and Councilmembers Hugh and Alvarez voted to keep the practice. It is very difficult to put the genie back in the box after it has been freed. The four councilmembers who voted to do so, Sherwood, Knaack, Martinez and Chavira, could find that this move comes back to bite them.  However, with Martinez’ and Knaack’s retirement, it may only be an election issue for Sherwood and Chavira.

Item #21 was the affirmation of Vice Mayor Knaack to continue for another year as Vice Mayor. As expected Alvarez was the only “no” vote.

During the Council Comments which occurs at the end of the meeting Vice Mayor Knaack used her opportunity to try to rationalize her public comment about the sales tax increase when she said that the sunset provision was adopted to “make it more palatable to residents.” It demonstrates a very cynical attitude. I was the councilmember who offered and succeeded in getting the sunset provision adopted because I fully anticipated that council would adopt budgetary cuts in expenses every year leading up to the sunset. A budgetary cut plan was proposed by former Interim City Manager Horatio Skeete and I expected council to follow through. If council had followed through as proposed, by reducing the budget by several million dollars each and every year, this council would not be taking such radical steps this year. If some councilmembers such as Knaack accepted the sunset provision to make it more palatable to voters they might have been better served to voice their concerns about the provision at the time. Instead it was accepted with nary a comment. This is a major issue and council’s decision to make the sales tax increase permanent by removing the sunset clause with a simple council vote and their intent to raise the sales tax increase is a not right. It is a major violation of public trust.

Last up was Mayor Weiers who admitted that he had not done a good job working with his peers, councilmembers. He said he was working to rectify the situation by meeting with them one on one to find ways to help them to succeed. Good for him. It’s a practice long overdue. God knows it was never an agenda item for former Mayor Scruggs who believed in keeping all power to herself.

Reminder the next City Council Budget workshop is Tuesday, February 4, 2014 at 9 AM to be followed with a regular council workshop at 1:30 PM on the same day.

My informal poll to the right of this column becomes even more relevant as council continues to shape next Fiscal Year’s budget. Also take the opportunity to sign up for email notices of upcoming additions to my blog. It is to the right of this column.

© Joyce Clark, 2014

FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have 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, democratic, 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 and 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.

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