Thursday, January 17, 2013

ZAP! #110: City Manager Misdeals

ZAP! #110

     Shuffle up and deal!  The Irving Texas Hold’em tournament is about to begin.  At stake will be the $450,000+ grand prize salary and benefit package of the city manager’s current contract.  Unless the council deals quickly, the manager’s contract will automatically be extended for three more years with all of his ‘goodies’ tucked between the lines that have avoided serious scrutiny by the council.  If extended, this would be the same as allowing the city manager to play this tournament with cards up his sleeve.

     Yes, dear readers, a few on the council have finally realized -- after being dealt several losing hands -- that Irving has been paying more for less fiscal control of your tax bucks over the past several years than ever before in the city’s history.

     However, even though the city manager is conducting a personal lobbying campaign with some city council members to extend his agreement, the real issue will be if he deals from the top of the deck.  That is, will the council look at the questionable issues that have occurred during the manager’s tenure, or will the manager have some of his cronies or Kool-Aid addicted council members attempt to deal a few cards off of the bottom of the playing the ethnicity card to gloss over pitfalls of responsibility?

     Staff of the CCR genuinely hopes that the council deals with the actual issues that have plagued the city over the past several years and not sink into the pity-trap of false rhetoric that would prevail when someone shouts that their actions are being considered because of the manager’s ethnicity.  Simply stated, ethnicity has nothing to do with all the problems that should be a part of the manager’s contract review.  Ethnicity didn’t cause these issues to develop or fester.  Rather, the problems were created and fostered on tax payers due to irresponsible actions, lack of effective leadership and forcing others to absorb the blame for derelictions that have cost tax payers millions of dollars.

     If you owned a business and your top manager had the following events occur on his/her watch, wouldn’t you be alarmed and prepared to take immediate action due to these fiscal breakdowns?  Listed below are just a few of the issues that staff of the CCR believes the council should be considering instead of listening to a plethora of chums closely aligned with the manager or those who have benefitted directly from the manager’s largeness.

     And if the mayor wants to demonstrate genuine leadership, then perhaps she should forget her sometimes tennis partner and look at the reality of what citizens have witnessed over the past several years.  These highly visible and costly issues are directly attributable to the current city manager.  Many additional issues and problems are buried deep in the workplace trenches, hidden in special project budgets, or not vocalized by employees for fear of retribution.

     Should Irving tax payers continue to pay for city management that:

  •     Accepted the resignation of the fire chief then immediately re-hired him for a $161,000+ ‘grants writing’ position that was not on the city salary schedule or that had been advertised for other employees to apply for?  How many ‘grants’ has the ex-fire chief been responsible for writing in his new position, or even when he was the fire chief?  Was this a quid pro quo arrangement?  Was this an amigo repayment?
  •     The chummy and probably secretive relationship dealings between members of the Lubbock Mafia (city manager Gonzalez, chamber president Wallace and Lubbock developer Delbert McDougal) created and caused the city’s tax payers to be on the hook for a $51 million hickey due to inflated land prices, hidden agendas and a serious lack of oversight and control by the city manager.  McDougal fared well with his city payoff and left Irving tax payers holding a bag of vacant property in this ill-fated land development folly.  The extreme cost of the McDougal settlement makes it near impossible for tax payers to recoup the cost the city has absorbed on this development fiasco when the property is finally resold.
  •     Again, the relationship of the Lubbock Mafia (city manager Gonzalez and chamber president Wallace) conspired to funnel $600,000 of Texas Stadium sign revenue to the chamber’s coffers.  These funds -- until challenged by public outcry -- were used to pay for a luxurious stadium suite for use by the chamber for entertaining cronies, special interest groups, city staff/council and a host of other folks who were supposed to churn untold ‘economic development’ activities in the city.  This use of city revenues for this activity was about as effective and promising as betting on the Cowboys in the playoffs.
  •     Who can forget the reported saga of sporting event ducats for the city manager’s utilization placed under his ‘magical’ front door mat and provided by an individual who had ties to the Entertainment Center project.  Like some other city manager activities, it is difficult for the light of day to shine on these events when they are not conducted at city hall.  Could this be why there also might be dim lighting in the La Cima Club?
  •     The fact that over $4 million in Entertainment Center expenses (unaudited) were approved by “unnamed city employees” working for the city manager still looms as one of the many unanswered questions of the Billy Bob boondoggle.  Will the manager ever name who the responsible individual was and who gave final approval to secrete all these expenses in a category not researched or documented when a financial review -- not an audit -- was performed?  After all, isn’t he responsible for all his employees actions?
  •     Citizens often hear that all the management changes, staff re-shuffling and departmental collapsing by the city manager utilizing 6-Sigma, 7-Omega or the process du jour has saved the city over $40 million.  If this is accurate, then where did the $40 million go?  Employees will tell you that their job responsibilities have increased, there is a lack of genuine leadership exerted by the city manager and if fealty isn’t exhibited by employees, then the front door is opened wide for a quick departure of these individuals.
  •     For a tech-informed individual, one has to wonder how critical city information can disappear on the city manager’s BlackBerry, yet still remain on other employee PADs.  Especially, when the information is requested by the Dallas Morning News.  Convenient computer virus?  Fat fingers pushing buttons?  
  •     Utilizing ICTN as a propaganda arm for touting “awards,” the city manager relishes accumulating these resume´ puffers that have more to do with applying for recognition than with actual city benefits earned or enhanced.  Considering the staff time, expense of highly paid consultants and employees fearful of citing truthful or the wrong canned answers, the city manager operates under a veil of ‘my way or the highway.‘  And records would reflect that too many good, dedicated and critical employees have either left on their own accord or via pressure placed on them by the city manager.  Frankly, this is no way to run a railroad or city hall for that matter!
  •     Allowing significant consultant cost to be incurred where actual benefits are nebulous or non-existent seems to be the order of the day.  The millions spent on consultant-lobbying efforts, purported chamber ‘economic development’ activities and other ‘personnel training‘ projects for employees have not demonstrated relative benefits to the city or its tax payers.  The PowerPoint presentations are pretty, but the bottom line accountability is lost in the fading colors of accepting responsibility. 
  •     The thousands upon thousands of city bucks spent by the manager to nosh with cronies and those who seek special favors from the city in a lavish private club setting does little to advance Irving as an open city subscribing to transparency in its dealings with the general public.  Poor “Joe tax payer” cannot play this “money talks” game with all these high rollers. 
  •     A pattern of ‘ducking and hiding’ from the press to keep from having to respond to queries and imposing hurdles for information that should be made readily available under the FOIA seems to be SOP for the city manager.  Irving citizens are fortunate in that the Texas Attorney General knows more about FOIA than the city manager does.  
  •     What will be the cost to the city for representing the city manager in the law suits related to the Entertainment Center project?  And what could be the repercussions if judgements are issued that find the city is at fault?  Is this another blank check just waiting to be signed for the city manager’s benefit? 
     And seriously, the city does not need to spend $60,000+ to hire someone to handle the manager’s contractual negotiation.  Even staff of the CCR can envision what should be a foregone conclusion.  If nine members of the council cannot realistically observe what has happened to our city during this manager’s tenure and correct this egregious personnel problem, then tax payers had best be prepared for a continuation of dictatorial leadership, cronyism and three years of a contractual agreement that could cause the city to lose again if they go “all in” for this tournament.

     The “river card” of the Irving Texas Hold’em tournament has been turned.  Will the city manager be able to fake or bluster his way out of a dismally poor record of leadership and financial accountability? 

     Tell your council representatives to call the city manager’s bluff and slide the $450,000+ winnings of this contract agreement to the citizens of the city when they lay down a straight flush to the manager’s pair of ‘business as usual’ cards.  Isn’t it time that tax payers won a hand in the game that they are required to finance?  After all, they have been playing against an apparently marked deck that has drained their table stakes for the past several years.  

     More importantly, the time is right to open a new deck of cards (remember to remove the city attorney Joker card), shuffle and deal a fresh hand to a new Irving city manager.

……………………..Mark Holbrook