City releases report on manager turnover

Council members, police chief are targets of criticism
Feb. 06, 2013 @ 10:01 AM

Monroe City Council released a redacted version of a $50,000 report on city manager turnover Tuesday night after spending about an hour in closed session. 

The report was commissioned after Council member Margaret Desio recommended council look at the reason behind their high rate of turnover of city managers. Anthony Fox and Parker, Poe, Adams and Bernstein conducted the study. 

Prior to closed session, a resolution to prohibit retaliation for participation in the analysis was pulled from the consent agenda for discussion in regular session. 

"I can't vote for something that's in the abstract," Council member Billy Jordan said. 

Fox said the resolution is designed to address one of the concerns they heard from staff. The resolution is to instill confidence in the staff. 

Jordan said that would "assume we're dealing with a report that's fair and unbiased."

Fox told Jordan and council that the report is an "accurate reflection" of what was told to himself and the other attorneys by staff members. 

Mayor Bobby Kilgore noted that he had not read the report and would like time to do so before voting on such a measure. 

Council member John Ashcraft made a motion to approve the resolution prohibiting retaliation. The motion passed 4-3 with Kilgore, Jordan and Council member Dottie Nash voting against it. 

The team of Fox and two additional attorneys conducted interviews with more than 24 current and former city employees, according to the introduction. In addition, they reviewed numerous records and files. They interviewed Kilgore and every other member of city council, with the exception of Jordan, who did not respond to requests, according to the introduction of the analysis. 

"The report contains a fair representation of the major issues within the City organization," the analysis reads. "Our team impartially gathered information as reported to us. The City staff and the interviewees are to be commended for their courage in openly sharing their experiences and thought. We found that, for the most part, employees and elected officials are well-intentioned and dedicated to public service. Often though, judgment and tactics chosen to accomplish objectives are misguided."

There will be more coverage in the Thursday edition and on the website.

After a summary of the interviews and findings of fact, the report presents conclusions of law and recommendations. 

The conclusions of law are as follows: 

1. Few Council members understand or respect the Council Manager form of government and several Council members who do, choose to ignore it.

2. Some of the Council's actions have been inconsistent with the City Charter and the Council Manager form of government.

3. The failure of the Council to adhere to the Council Manager form of government has negatively impacted staff morale, heightened the frustration of City Managers and impacted the City's ability to operate in an efficient and effective manner.

4. The failure of Council to adhere to the Council Manager form of government allows staff to avoid the authority of the City Manager through direct communications with Council members.

5. Some Council members, on occasion, have ignored the action of the Council and have utilized staff to achieve their objectives.

6 The City Council is currently divided with a four/three split and each faction has strong and demanding leadership.

7. The Police Chief's compensation issue was not appropriate for Council consideration under the Council Manager form of government.

8. Few City Managers for the City of Monroe have been willing to deliver difficult messages and say no to the City Council out of fear that their jobs would be jeopardized.

9. Council member Dottie Nash has created an environment within the City where there is a strong fear of retaliation and distrust by Staff.

10. Council member Lynn Keziah has a demanding style which has created fear among some staff.

11. There is a general perception that the Council cannot cooperate with each other and lack a clear "big picture vision of the City."

12. Nepotism exists within the City of Monroe and several Council members have encouraged interviews and employment of close friends and/or relatives.

13. Three individual Council members, particularly Dottie Nash, Mayor Bobby Kilgore and Lynn Keziah, have influenced personnel decisions with respect to staff hiring and discipline.

14. Dottie Nash has at least three family members or close associates employed with the city.

15. One other Council member, Lynn Keziah, has had a family member employed with the City.

16. No other current Council member has a family member or close associate employed with the city.

17. One Department Head, Police Chief Duncan, has a family member, Ashley Duncan, employed with the City.

18. Several Council members have influenced personnel decisions related to the employment of Ashley Duncan with the City.

19. The hiring of family members and close associates of Council members impacts the quality of candidates employed with the City.

20. One Council member, Dottie Nash, has secretly tape recorded staff, former City Manager Wayne Herron, without his knowledge or consent on January 31, 2012.

21. Before the tape recording of Wayne Herron was released, Dottie Nash informed certain staff and several council members of its existence.

22. The secret tape recording of former City Manager Wayne Herron is known throughout the City and knowledge of this act has created an environment of distrust, suspicion, fear and paranoia with in the organization.

23. (Redacted) also has secretly tape recorded a member of the City Staff, City Manager Wayne Herron without his knowledge or consent.

24. The secret recording of City Manager Herron by (Redacted) was shared with Council member Dottie Nash and Mayor Bobby Kilgore.

25. Subsequently, Dottie Nash and Mayor Bobby Kilgore shared the contents of the Police Chief's tape recording with Council member Lynn Keziah.

26. The secret tape recording of the former City Manager Wayne Herron by the (Redacted) may bring the Police Department in disrepute or ridicule and may impair the performance of official duties and obligations of employees of the City. Therefore, the conduct may constitute unbecoming conduct of a police officer under the Police Department's Standard Operating Policies and Procedures/

27. The secret tape recording of the former City Manager, Wayne Herron, by the (Redacted) does not violate the prohibition against taping under the Police Department's Standard Operating Police and Procedures since Herron was not a member of the Police Department.

28. Wayne Herron's severance arrangement which involved payment by funds by the City requires an official vote by the full Council.

The recommendations are as follows: 

1. The City Council should develop a Code of Conduct governing each Council member's interaction with the next City Manager and Staff. The Code should set out prohibitive interactions between Council members and Staff. The Code should be open to further negotiations with the next City Manager and spell out how instructions to Staff should be communicated. The Council should explore attaching penalties and/or fines to violations of the Code of Conduct. 

2. The Council should establish a clear and written agreement between the City Manager and the Council confirming each party's commitment to the Council Manager form of government and containing fines and penalties for violations by the Council. 

3. The Council should explore establishing a Council Manager relations' committee or appointing a designee that will serve as the liaison between the Manager and the Council and address concerns and/or tensions that may arise between the Council, the staff and the Manager. Council should carefully evaluate the structure of this approach. A committee structure will require compliance with the Open Meetings Law whereas a liaison approach may allow more intimate discussions of issues. 

4. The Council should explore committing to the next City Manager to have an annual facilitated discussion between the City Manager and the full Council to address issues that may exist between the Council, the City Manager and staff. This approach and discussion should occur annually and may coincide with the performance evaluation process. 

5. An anti-nepotism policy should be implemented which clearly outline's the City's rules and expectations regarding the employment of relatives and close associated within the City. It should recognize the opportunity to refer qualified applicants to the HR office. 

6. The City should develop appropriate guidelines for the Council on how to properly respond to inquiries about job opportunities, compensation, opportunities for advancement and other personnel matters within the City. The Council should be trained on these procedures to avoid any improper interference by Council with Staff personnel matters in the future. 

7. The Council should consider implementing a no tape recording policy and whistle blower/retaliation complaint procedure to alleviate concerns of retaliation, reprisal among staff and establish and atmosphere of trust within the City. 

8. The Council should retain and outside firm to conduct a sweep of City Hall for bugs or other surveillance or electronic devices. While it is doubtful that any such devices exist in City Hall, there is a clear and present perception among staff that the facility is not secure and possibly bugged. Many employees in the City have resorted to the use of their personal cell phones and often leave the premises to discuss sensitive matters. A sweep of City facilities would help restore confidence in the security and privacy of City buildings. 

9. Council should develop and execute a compact assuring City staff that no actions will be taken in retaliation for participation in this report. 

10. The Council should consider conducting regular retreats in order to build camaraderie and address important City issues. 

11. In the future, Council's termination decisions regarding the City Manager should require official Council action, and language in the City Manager's employment contracts to the contrary should be revised or deleted.