Sunday, February 19, 2006
We Interrupt the Epic Retelling with This Important Message
Be dedicated to the concepts of effective and democratic local government by responsible elected officials and believe that professional general management is essential to the achievement of this objective. So that would mean an ethical city manager would not tear down correctly posted Open Meeting signs and not do Council business over the phone.
Affirm the dignity and worth of the services rendered by government and maintain a constructive, creative, and practical attitude toward local government affairs and a deep sense of social responsibility as a trusted public servant. So that would mean doing what is in the best interests for the city and not juggling numbers to accomodate an inessential campaign promise or say, perhaps, not funneling out city contracts to the previous mayor to sign after he cannot legally sign them.
Be dedicated to the highest ideals of honor and integrity in all public and personal relationships in order that the member may merit the respect and confidence of the elected officials, of other officials and employees, and of the public. So that would mean not showing favor and overturning a ruling against, say, a prominent citizen's child who was caught cheating in a city-run program.
Recognize that the chief function of local government at all times is to serve the best interests of all people.
Submit policy proposals to elected officals; provide them with facts and advice on matters of policy as a basis for making decisions and setting community goals; and uphold and implement local government policies adopted by elected officials. So that would mean giving ALL the facts about a proposal and not just cherry-picking information so as to embarass or "hang out" a councilperson or other official.
Recognize that elected representatives of the people are entitled to the credit for the establishment of local government policies; responsibility for policy execution rests with the members.
Refrain from all political activities which undermine public confidence in professional administrators. Refrain from participation in the election of the members of the employing legislative body. So that would probably include NOT asking the local newspaper to run a credit check or investigate, say, the mayor's opponent in a mayoral race.
Make it a duty continually to improve the member's professional ability and to develop the competence of associates in the use of management techniques.
Keep the community informed on local government affairs; encourage communication between the citizens and all local government officers; emphasize friendly and courteous service to the public; and seek to improve the quality and image of public service. So that would mean not using the "F" word as part of normal conversation with, say, visiting developers or not being condescending or patronizing to citizens who speak at council meetings.
Resist any encroachment on professional responsibilities, believing the member should be free to carry out official policies without interference, and handle each problem without discrimination on the basis of principle and justice.
Handle all matters of personnel on the basis of merit so that fairness and impartiality govern a member's decision, pertaining to appointments, pay adjustments, promotions, and discipline. So that would mean not playing unions against management, not overturning disciplinary action for a favored few, or not turning employees against each other to curry favor or using intimidation tactics.
Seek no favor; believe that personal aggrandizement or profit secured by confidential information or by misuse of public time is dishonest.
Well, with all this talk about "honor" and "integrity" and "ethics" surely you must agree that anyone who breaches this Code of Ethics' should have their contract terminated because this community deserves the best that we can get?
Sunday, February 12, 2006
How Did We Get Here (Or How Soon We Forget) Part One
Well, here's part one of a multiple series.
John Iacoangeli set the tone of his tenure when just after the election in 2003 he was quoted in the Monroe Evening News that he would meet with Councilpersons Sabo, Guyor and Compora to set the direction of the next two years. (Please note the absence of Councilpersons Burkett, Edwards, and Wetzel in his plans. Is it just me or does that sound like a clique? Was there an open meeting violation, jeepers?) The whole culture of "I" had begun - where the ends always justifies the means.
Oddly enough, after that statement there was no "public outrage" - no comments from the Monroe Evening News writing their dismay with the new council right off the bat.
City Manager Bob Hamilton resigned (hey, he was an "at will" employee - he saw the writing on wall) and retired. He was the first of at least six department head departures within the first year - some voluntarily and some not.
January 5, 2004
New Mayor and Council were sworn in.
Votes on 3 issues, 7-0; 1 issue 6-0 with 1 abstention
SPECIAL Council Meeting
A special council meeting was held at 6 p.m. which was not the normal meeting time.
The mayor proposed a six-month contract for legal services of Braunlich, Russow & Braunlich. (Bill Braunlich is a good friend and colleague of the mayor's.) Councilperson Wetzel pointed out that the contract was temporary while a RFP is prepared to bid out the legal services for the city and would expire June 30, 2004. (Please note that at the June 21, 2004 Council Meeting the mayor proposed that the services of that law firm continue WITHOUT bidding out the services. His rationale was that they were already there and he didn't want to waste time changing.) Oddly enough there was no "public outrage" at the lack of a bid or awarding the contract to a pal. Again, no comment on the appropriateness and questionable ethics of that action from the Monroe Evening News.
The vote was 5-2; Burkett/Wetzel - nays.
In regards to a request for the negotiation of a personal services contract with the Finance Director "Mayor Iacoangeli responded to Council concerns stating that there are three positions that have a direct relationship with the Mayor and Council; the City Manager, the Director of Finance and the Assistant City Attorney. He explained that the city always had a contract with the City Manager. He considers the Director of Finance as the Chief Finance officer for the city, and these positions along with the legal position form the the framework for how the government operates. He stated that he thinks it is in the best interests of the city to have a contract with all of these individuals to outline their responsibilities, compensation and provisions for termination." Then Tom Russow, Attorney, explained "that it is recommended practice from various organizations that all "at-will" employees have a written contract in which they specifically acknowledge that they are an employee "at-will" which sets out the terms of what happens if the contract is not renewed or if there is a termination of the contract before it expires." (So a quick flash-forward - Ms. Manns knew what she was signing as a "professional" - its part of the job.)
Votes on 6 issues, 7-0
City Council Minutes 1/12/2004
Please note that a few months later the Mayor and Council terminated the "at will" contract of the Finance Director shortly before they received a "wonderful" audit and the news that they had inherited a city in great financial shape. There was no public explanation of his termination. There was no "public outrage" at the council exercising their right to terminate an "at-will" employee.
January 12, 2004
A Council Workshop was held at 7:15 p.m. on Parliamentary Procedure.
(Based on watching the future proceedings it doesn't appear that the lessons took.)
January 20, 2004
City Council Meeting
The mayor announced that he added a last-minute "Request to Retain an Interim City Manager" under Council Action that was not on the agenda.
There was also an "Appointments Resolution" from the Mayor's Office with no written documentation - either on the website or with the public agendas.
"The communication from the Mayor's Office, submitting a memo regarding the appointment of an interim City Manager, and recommending that Ms. Debbie Manns (who was sitting in the audience undoubtedly anticipating getting the very well-paid gig that evening) be retained in the position of interim City Manager until such a time that the City conclude a formal search process for a permanent City Manager. ...he stated that the memo asks to appoint Ms. Manns, who he has known professionally for about 12 years and feels is a very good administrator, excellent organizer and communicator and would serve well at this time." (Please note the familiarity of that suggestion - sounds a lot like the rationale for hiring another friend, Braunlich's law firm, "temporarily" then awarding the permanent gig later under the radar.)
Tim Laitur, Assistant City Attorney, explained that the Charter provisions trump the Codified Ordinance and that two-thirds vote of council is required. The motion was defeated 4-3 with Councilpersons Burkett, Wetzel and Edwards voting no. It was then moved to begin the search for a city manager.
Votes on 14 issues, 7-0; 1 issue 4-3
City Council Minutes, 1/20/2004
The Monroe Evening News reported on the meeting in the January 21st issue. In an article by Charles Slat, it said Mayor Iacoangeli proposed she (Manns) serve at least six months and be paid a rate reflecting an annual salary of $90,000. Councilperson Edwards was the first to oppose the mayor's proposal, suggesting the appointment didn't meet the protocol for naming a temporary manager as spelled out in the codes. She also questioned Ms. Mann's experience and qualifications, especially in terms of labor negotiations, and was bothered by the pay rate. "I find that very appalling, there's no way I can go along with that."
(Of course, a few weeks later she did go along with that. Since Ms. Manns qualifications did not change or improve what changed Ms. Edwards' mind? Was she promised something in exchange for her vote?)
Mayor Iacoangeli said "what I want council to understand - what I want the community to understand - is that using the Finance Director as acting city manager is a caretaker position only and I have more and bigger ideas for this community than to wait for six to nine months before we get a city manager." (I get the feeling that he meant he didn't like the idea of being slowed down by these silly rules and he did not appreciate having to wait to install a "yes" person to help him achieve his agenda because he was in a hurry.)
Councilperson Wetzel said she had never been asked about her expectations for a city manager or interim city manager and she felt the proposal to hire Ms. Manns "has not been an inclusive process." She has said she only received a resume and never had a conversation with anyone. "I'm to take your word she's qualified?", she asked the mayor. Mayor Iacoangeli said he informed everyone of his intentions, (does that mean that Wetzel, Burkett, and Edwards would have found out his intention perhaps a day or two before the meeting while his "clique" of Sabo, Guyor and Compora already knew - they sure didn't seem surprised - gee, was there an open meetings violation?) furnished a resume and entertained questions about the appointment from council members. "I have an open door," he said, "I think it is incumbent upon council members that if they want inclusion, we have to seek inclusion." (What an interesting comment.)
(Just a side note: at the February 6, 2006 Council Meeting Councilperson Compora criticized Mayor Cappuccilli for her perceived notion that she was purposely not included in council appointments. She publicly admitted that he had already contacted her on at least two other occasions in spite of their contentious relationship. Oddly enough, did you know that Mayor Cappuccilli's reaching out to Councilperson Compora is already twice as many times in a month than Iacoangeli contacted Councilperson Wetzel in the two years they served together, and wow, she didn't even have hate signs in her yard.
And former mayor Iacoangeli (Ms. Compora's "hero") just noted in the article that he felt it was the responsibility of the councilperson to reach out to the mayor - not the other way around. So it would appear that if she followed Iacoangeli's rationale then she should be the one reaching out to Mayor Cappuccilli. Weird, huh?
Even Councilperson Edwards said in the same exchange that she can certainly speak for herself and if she had a concern or problem she had no problem just simply picking up the phone and talking to the mayor.)
January 27, 2004
City Council Work Session with the Citizen Planning Commission
Also present were various department heads and others asking for funding of projects.
The purpose was to discuss the 2004-2009 capital improvements program budget.
Please note the multiple years, some projects are planned years ahead due to need and monies available.
Department heads each asked for funding of particular projects and then in an unprecedented move the mayor weighed in with his own list of projects that if implemented would require other projects waiting their turn to be bumped or eliminated. The mayor's projects included changes to St. Mary's Parking Lot, a one-lane roundabout at LaPlaisance, Scott and Sixth Sts.,the refurbishment of Kentucky Memorial Park, the refurbishment of the tot lot at fourth & Harrison Sts., construction of a shared pathway between Smith St. and Woodcraft Square, enhancements to the Front Street corridor, acquistion and reconfiguration of the intersectionat third, Union and Front Sts., replacement of trees on S. Monroe St.and a comprehensive signage system. (Sound familiar? Many of his projects were implemented so whose neighborhood got the shaft?)
City Council Minutes 1/27/2004
January 29, 2004
City Council Joint Work Session with the Downtown Development Authority
The purpose of the meeting was to hear a presentation from the Community Development Department on the Main Street Approach to downtown revitalization.
Laura Kreps, Community Planner, (also a certified Main Street planner courtesy of the previous administration and the taxpayers) gave a presentationthat detailed the four-point approach, the eight principles of the Main Street Approach and an organizational structure of a typical Main Street Program. (Please note that a "typical" Main Street Program is NOT controlled by the city - matter of fact the program stresses that there be an office away from the city so as not to foster even a perception that the city is controlling the program.) She explained that the budget for the program would be approximately $100,000 a year and would be funded by the contributions by the DDA, the City and downtown businesses, large and small. The program would be run by a Main Street Manager and would rely on community volunteers.
The mayor asked the DDA to submit a formal letter to Council requesting a three-year commitment from the city to support a Main Street program.
(Please note that during earlier discussions of this program it was understood that all the stakeholders would be partners, sharing their strengths and expertise, not just simply the City calling all the shots with a take it or leave it attitude.
Well, that's the end of Part One with more to come.
Friday, February 10, 2006
Give Me a Break
I think when the "investigation" is finally ended I want to believe that the current councilmen will be vindicated - they are good men - and that the News will write an article with equally bold headlines saying as such. I believe that if those guys had it all planned out and they were as sneaky as everyone alleges then they certainly would not have done it that night. I don't know what possessed Councilperson Burkett to make that motion but it was obviously something he felt very strongly about. Disagree or not the council had every right to make a change.
However, I'm a realist too. I got a bad feeling that our trusty newspaper has a little agenda and editorial spin of their own. I have a bad feeling that the results of the investigation will be inconclusive at best. Councilperson Compora has absolutely no evidence that anything conspiratorial conspired and if she did, wasn't it her absolute duty as a representative of the council to stop it from happening or at least to find out for sure what was going on? Just think, if she had done her duty and something horrible was happening as she alleges then she could have stopped it. But the thing is, nothing wrong was happening - no nefarious plans were being made and she knows it. The sad thing is how easy it is to throw out an accusation with no basis in fact and the media today will run with it. No context, no balance, no WMDs.
Where's Paul Harvey's "Rest of the Story" When You Need Him?
I have a feeling that there is more to the story of Ms. Manns' termination.
One very curious statement by Councilperson Compora in the Toledo Blade was her dismay in discovering that the city manager's computer was locked down after the meeting. My question is, why was she accessing it all? The computer should contain only city-related and city-owned data and information and since she was no longer an employee she had no need to touch it. So what exactly was she going after? Wouldn't it be interesting if one our "esteemed" papers actually followed through on this story and did a FOIA request of that computer?
What was it that Ms. Manns and Ms. Compora wanted to protect or perhaps delete? Too "conspiracy theory" for you? Well, let's find out then.
It is no secret that Ms. Manns is beholden to Mr. Iacoangeli for that very well-paid position. The question, then, did Ms. Manns adhere to the principles of ICMA (International City/County Management Association) Code of Ethics. (www.icma.org)
And one hilarious observation was Councilperson Compora's comment at the last meeting in regards to the ethics ordinance that the past council was interested in setting high standards for the council. Unfortunately that last council didn't want an "ethics" ordinace to get in the way of governing until they were a couple of weeks from leaving.