It's difficult to think of a more damning characterization of an organization that to deem it to be to be one that has a systemic culture of low expectations. By any account, it spells the word "failure" and it would weigh very heavily on anyone saddled with the responsibility for this dire outcome.
The Hamiltonian feels for City Manager Chris Murray who, bureaucratically is accountable to the directing minds of this city- city council. However, we feel particularly empathetic to all those employees of the city (and we would like to think it is the vast majority) who go to work each day, do their jobs with pride and to the best of their ability, often times putting in long hours and going beyond reasonable expectations of their work. Those employees should not be painted by the same brush and they serve as a testament for the need for change; beyond the obvious need for change demanded by the public interest and the public purse.
The magnifying glass should not only fall on City Manager Chris Murray and some of his managers, but on City Council as the directing minds of this city. Chris serves at the pleasure of council, who serves at the pleasure of the electorate. That chain of command requires that city council serve as a vanguard on behalf of the public and guard the public interest and trust.
While Clr. Merulla may have been correct in his recent observations that public works' productivity has increased as a result of the investigations and actions related to the recent scandal of alleged time theft and the like, that perspective should not be the prevailing one. City Council should have made demands on the bureaucracy long ago and they would have been absolutely correct to have done so.
And while fighting off the spirit of "I told you so" banter, initial signs of the criticality of the issue of performance was raised by The Hamiltonian in a series of articles pertaining to the then, dire state of performance contracts/agreements. You may want to read these articles by clicking here.
As far as we know, to date, the city has no way of correlating whether those on the sunshine list (employees making over $100,000.00 per year), have a performance agreement/contract in place, and further, whether the expectations expressed in such instruments are being met.
On a positive note, we understand that the performance agreement/contract instruments have been revised and improved and progress has been made with respect to the amount of staff who have one in place. The process of measuring against such agreements has to be done with the necessary sensitivity so as to resist measuring for the sake of measuring, and rather, invoking a system that meaningfully and supportively takes stock of performance and allows it to improve with the necessary coaching and training. Such a system would also be useful where progressive discipline is required and would help to withstand any challenges at arbitration or before other judicial or quasi judicial bodies.
Public reporting, in the form of a report card that can be accessed online by anyone, with understood measures by department and progress against those measures, would be the ultimate expression of accountability to the public.
Back to city council- are they demanding these measures? Are they asking about the degree of performance contracts that are in place and completed meaningfully? Are they asking why those on the sunshine list may or may not have performance contracts/agreements? Let's hope they are.
In terms of City Manager Chris Murray and his journey to change the culture, unless he moves quickly to hold the organization to account, he would have truly failed the very people who excel in their work, and left those who are permitted to waste public funds, to do so.
We wish Chris well and warn him that culture has strategy for breakfast daily.