Baker Moves, and Council Votes 6-3, To Hold Special Closed Session Sept. 4 To Evaluate Performance of City Manager Taboada
Carroll & Colonna Try To Buy Time, Offer Taboada & City Mgt. Opportunities In Coming Weeks To State Their Case Publicly
Carroll & Colonna Move To Buy Time, Offer Taboada & City Mgt. Opportunities In Coming Weeks To Present City Management's Case Publicly
(Sept. 3, 2002, updated 9:30 p.m. from 6:15 p.m. initial post) -- The City Council has voted 6-3 (Colonna, Carroll, Reyes-Uranga dissenting) to hold a special closed session on Wednesday, Sept. 4 to consider the performance of the City Manager...a meeting at which Councilmembers could vote to remove him if they so choose.
[9:30 p.m. update] However later in the Council meeting, Councilmembers Dennis Carroll and Vice Mayor Frank Colonna -- on the losing side of the vote for the special closed session -- indicated they intend to agendize items in two weeks that would let city management explain salaries, raises and retirement benefits that have drawn criticism in recent days in some newspaper columns and editorial/perspective pieces.
Carroll and Colonna's announcements are, in effect, an effort to dissuade other Councilmembers from voting the next day to remove Mr. Taboada...and instead give him an opportunity to make his case publicly. [further updated text below]
It was clear something was up early in the meeting when Councilmembers entered the Council Chamber piecemeal. Mayor Beverly O'Neill, who takes pains to be punctual, started the meeting roughly five minutes late...and it soon became clear why.
After some routine items, Mayor O'Neill delivered a statement, referring to newspaper articles in the previous week that discussed the performance of the City Manager. She was apparently referring to a Long Beach Business Journal piece by publisher George Economides sharply critical of City Manager Henry Taboada for, among other things, awarding raises that had ballooned City Hall's $100,000+ Club" (six figure salaries), which sparked a piece by veteran Press-Telegram columnist Tom Hennessy urging Taboada to resign or be fired, followed by a Sunday PT editorial critical of Taboada and the Council that did not seek Taboada's exit.
The Mayor said:
The City Council hires two people: the City Manager and the City Clerk. And it's the responsibility of the Council to evaluate the performances and they do that periodically, in fact one is coming up in October. So I just wanted to say that the responsibility of the City Manager is to follow the directions and policies established by a vote of the City Council. And so there is a proper process for these matters and I wanted to make this statement, I've said it before, that the City Manager works for the members of the Council.
Following the Mayor's statement, 2d district Councilman Dan Baker sought the floor. He said he felt the matter of the City Manager needed to be dealt with sooner...and moved to do so in a special closed session tomorrow (Sept. 4) at 6:00 p.m.
I appreciate [the Mayor's] comments. I agree with them wholeheartedly. That being said, I would like to make a motion to call a closed session, a special session of the City Council for Wednesday Sept. 4 at 6 p.m. to evaluate the performance of the City Manager.
4th district Councilman Dennis Carroll responded, saying he would vote against the motion:
It seems to me that this issue with respect to the City Manager is a completely inappropriate one to be raised during very difficult budget negotiations for this city. It seems to me appropriate and in the interest of our citizens that this issue, which as far as I'm concerned has no immediate urgency other than the agenda of certain individuals both on the Council and in the community, can wait. It seems to me we have an obligation to the larger good here, which is try to provide our citizens with a budget upon which we can move forward as a community and address the compelling concerns of our citizens, principally public safety. And I don't see anything but distraction and diversion from this exercise and I intend to vote against this. I do appreciate my colleagues' concerns, and they're not inappropriate concerns, but they simply can wait.
Newly named Vice Mayor Frank Colonna said he would oppose the motion as well:
I too would like to respond on that. I believe when we first hired the City Manager that we had a uniform process here, and I think the process is very important. The City Manager is scheduled to have his annual review, I believe it's in October, and the sense of urgency is beyond my understanding, considering the fact that as Councilmember Carroll indicated, that we have a budget to pass. We've got a lot of work to do. This type of distraction, I think, is not appropriate for this Council, considering that we've got budget constraints. We've got a lot of people behind this rail as well as city staff and in the community that want to see us roll up our sleeves and get on with the business of governing the city as well as managing it properly and properly making sure that we meet our October deadline, and I do not feel that this is an appropriate time to bring this up, and at any time in the future I believe that the appropriate time would be when it is to be scheduled which is in October, and I will not be voting for this either.
Councilwoman Reyes-Uranga inquired about the scheduling, so did Councilman Val Lerch. "This can't wait for 30 days?" Lerch asked.
Councilman Baker replied, "I can't really go into what will be discussed at the session, but it's my opinion that the issue needs to be resolved now, and I believe there are others on the Council that share that feeling."
The Council vote was taken...6-3 to hold a closed session Sept. 4 at 6 p.m. to discuss the performance of the City Manager.
Yes: Lowenthal, Baker, Kell, Richardson-Batts, Webb, Lerch. No: Carroll, Colonna, Reyes-Uranga
[update posted at 9:30 p.m.]
About 90 minutes after six Councilmembers voted, in effect, to hold a special meeting at which the City Manager might be removed, Councilman Carroll maneuvered to give Mr. Taboada and city management time to make their case publicly.
Carroll seized the opportunity after comments during the course of budget discussions by Kevin Prelgovisk the president of the "Long Beach Management Association." Mr. Prelgovisk described his group's mission as to "increase the proficiency and development of City of LB managers in order to strengthen the quality of city services through professional management" and advocate that their "compensation remain competitive with the local municipal employment market in order to attract and retain an innovative and effective management team."
Mr. Prelgovisk decried a "spate of press coverage that portrays our management team in a very unflattering way, and we're not pleased to read those characterizations because we know that of our 270 some members, we know the good work that they're doing, the hard work that they're doing to serve the community." He said city management works "extremely hard every day, day in and day out, through good times and bad, to make Long Beach a better place to live and work."
Mr. Prelgovisk said much of what has been advocated in the press has been "arbitrary" such as "cut management salaries across the board by 10%. There's no framework provided for that. It's not part of an informed discussion. There's no discussion about what managers actually do. In fact, if you go back and read those articles, you'll see that conspicuously absent from them is any mention of what we do. Basic concepts like management level of responsibility, span of control over staff and financial resources, level of education and professional experience, comparability with equivalent private and public sector positions...just aren't there...We think that while it may be cathartic and make some people feel good to jab the management team,...it's a very shortsighted and ill considered strategy. If you want maintain, attract and retain this talented group of people and others like them, who are doing the work the work to keep the city running, we urge you to consider fully what the impacts of such a cut would be."
Prelgovisk urged the Council "take into account all of the facts."
Following his testimony, Councilman Carroll said:
Councilman Carroll: I thank the gentleman. That was a very well reasoned and timely series of comments, and I'm wondering if it would be appropriate to expand upon them in a more formal way.
And Mr. City Manager maybe you could help me here. It seems to me the criteria that he has set forward as a basis for evaluating performance and compensation are legitimate ones. They, that is the managers of our city who in my view have done an excellent job with the resources made available to them, have been under attack from a variety of sources. And I would also say that it's also legitimate to question everything that happens in this city. We are servants of the citizens and they have every right to examine what we do.
However, I think it's also appropriate that it be done on a basis that accords all parties an opportunity to be fully heard and to express the considerations and the concerns that they should be entitled to.
And I'm wondering if it would be possible for the Manager to present to us, perhaps the next Tuesday or the following Tuesday, the basis upon which municipal compensation is set for management personnel.
I think it's an area that is not only not well understood but often is misunderstood. There is a great discrepancy between the kinds of salaries some of our managers make and that our average citizen makes, and I think it's legitimate for them to want to know on what basis those salaries are set, which could include as the gentleman suggested, compensation from similar municipalities, the kinds of credentials and criteria upon which these persons are hired, the experience for which they are paid...I think it would be helpful for all of us to put those items before the public, to invite debate which may become spirited, but I want to make sure as a person, one of the persons responsible for providing taxpayer funds in the basis of salaries to our employees, that it be done on a fair and equitable basis and also the hard earned dollars of the taxpayer are being spent as wisely and efficiently as possible.
It's my belief that that case can be made, but I don't think it has been made properly before this evening. And I'm wondering Mr. Manager, would that be something that could be pulled together in a way that would give all of us a broader understanding of this important issue?
City Manager Taboada: ...Certainly this is a discussion that would be helpful. Before the advent of term limits, there were members of the Council who served for long terms and who were party to the development of the management compensation plan that is currently in effect. But because of term limits, and because so many members of the Council -- in fact none of the members of the Council, I believe, were present at the time that these policies were developed -- then I think it would be appropriate for that discussion to take place.
I certainly appreciate the invitation to lead that discussion, but I think Mr. Bill Storey, our Director of Human Resources, is far more qualified and has been intimately involved with that for the last 27 years...We'll be prepared to make that presentation as you see fit...Within two weeks we can certainly bring that discussion to your table.
Councilman Carroll: I appreciate that...The other item which I receive inquiries about is the recent retirement compensation plan...I think it would be helpful at least to me, and I think to the balance of our community, as to how that came about, what the overarching state involvement in that is, how it factors into the decisions that we heard [from other Departments during budget discussions]...
...I think the public could be benefited by an overall sense of the implications of that, not only the fact it would increase retirement, but from the City Auditor's perspective I believe he suggested in the early years it's going to save the city a substantial amount of money...
...I will agendize [all of that] for two weeks from today. Thank you.
City Manager Taboada: Thank you, sir.
Following supportive comments from Councilwoman Reyes-Uranga, Mayor O'Neill said:
Anytime there is something in any newspaper about something wrong with the city, or wrong with a Department, I think all of us suffer from that. If something is said about the city, we are the city, you are the city. And when things are noted, there is a lack of confidence in what all of us do.
...So I just want you to know [addressing group of city management in the audience], and I've said this to you many times, I've never dealt with a more professional group than I have the managers that I've worked with now for eight years, most of you, and I've had much more response when I've asked a question than I've had in my career, and I appreciate what you do, and I think that all of us in some way feel that there is a lack of confidence in what's going on.
Because when something is said, people don't know where to hit. You know, I mean, they I think they just think it must be everyone, so I appreciate your comments..."
And near the conclusion of the meeting, Vice Mayor Colonna indicated he would be agendizing for Council discussion a federal grant for 36 police officers, announced last week as awarded to the LBPD. The grant was successfully sought and obtained by city management, subject to Council agreement to pay 25% of the cost of the grant funded officers. Vice Mayor Colonna indicated he would seek an overview of potential funding sources for the city's share.
Councilman Carroll said he joined with Vice Mayor Colonna in supporting discussion of the federal police grant. "I look forward to the manager's report in terms of its particulars, as well as identifying additional sources of funding for it."