First, let me credit the Mayor and council for looking for ways to save money and make city government more efficient.
Second: The composition of the commission: Bi-partisan? One Republican doesn’t make a commission bi-partisan. That’s tokenism.
Competence. Of the 9 members there are 3 attorneys. 33% of this commission were attorneys. I would have expected a higher percentage of individuals with management and organizational expertise, and maybe one attorney for legal advice. Where is the management experience? I see one business owner, who is an IT person.
Gerry Daley, Chair/Common CouncilCommission first met in January 2012, and completed the report in April. That was quick. Was it thorough?
Todd Berch, Common Council
Joe Bibisi, Common Council
Dan Ryan, Corporation Counsel
Dennis Murphy, Deputy Commissioner of Labor for the State of Connecticut
Quentin Phipps, City Treasurer
Mike Gaudino, IT Expert/Middletown Business Owner
Jamie Mills, Labor Attorney, Middletown resident
Carl Chisem, Transportation Professional, Middletown resident
Recommendations – there were 15 Recommendations contained in this report. Some good, some incomprehensible.
1. Replace Engineering Technician and Drivers – The committee consulted with the Director and used his recommendation.
2. Change the way the city fills vacancies, to include a review for alternate staffing, and include impact on health/safety, revenue, etc. I’ll take this to mean that the impact to Public Health, Public Safety will be considered. I hope these two concerns would rate higher in the decision matrix than cost and possible revenue to the city.
3. Vital Statistics – No change here. I don’t see the significance of the presence of Middlesex Hospital in Middletown has on who keeps vital statistics within the city. But, again, the commission reviewed the issue with the Town Clerk and Health Department and took their recommendation.
4. Information Technology Advisory Committee – I offer my services as a member of this committee. I have over 20 years’ experience with information technology, from building and programming computers, to designing and building networks and databases.
5. & 6. Performance Planning and Measurement – an excellent recommendation and brings the city in-line with current business practice. When do we get a status update?
7. Supervisory/Management Skills Training – ditto. When do we get a status update?
8. Personnel Rules Review and making them available on the city web-site. Excellent. All city documents, rules, ordinances, job descriptions should be easily available on the web-site. When do we get a status update?
9. Internal Controls and Fiduciary Responsibility – see comments above.
10. Information Technology – merge into the Finance Department. In the past that was where most corporations located the IT department, since the Finance Department owned most of the computers and software. As computers have evolved, most corporations have separate IT departments which serve all other departments. If the IT department is short of staff will be helped by this merger. This is a step backward in organization, but not without precedent.
11. Financial Management – Buried in this recommendation is the position of Grant Writer. Is this the Grant Writer that Mayor Drew hired as soon as he took office, or is this a second Grant Writer? Either way, I would be interested to get a report on the success of the this new position, i.e. how many grants have been applied for count and amount, how many have been received, count and amount. Has this position increased the amount of money received by the city compared to past years?
12. Merge the Legal and Human Resources Department. This is the ugly one. I’m not aware of any major corporation where this is the organizational structure. Our new city attorney claims that Adidas, Citrix, and multiple municipalities in Michigan operate this way. Our mayor states that since so much of Human Resources is tied to the law, the General Counsel should supervise HR. By that logic, the Mayor and city council are also bound by laws, ordinances and the city charter. Should the Mayor and Council also be answerable to the City Attorney? City Sanitation is governed by environmental law. Should the Recycling Yard fall under the City Attorney? HR and Law are two different skill sets. The Human Resources Department needs to be run by a Human Resources professional, with appropriate staff. The legal department needs to be independent of and an advisor to, all other city departments. The proposed organization chart shows a Director of Human Resources with one-half of an administrative assistant. In contrast to recommendations #1 and #3, there is no mention here about consultation with the HR Director. I don’t see how an office of 4 is cut down to 1.5. That math doesn’t work. I’ll point out, again, that three of the nine task force members were lawyers. I know lawyers are intelligent, highly trained people. But, they are trained in Law. Not Human Resources. This is not the place to try and shave costs. A few more facts about this proposal: It concerns HR and job description changes but has not been reviewed by the Personnel Review Commission. The proposal requires a change to the city ordinances in order to enact, but has not been reviewed by the Ordinance Review committee. Why the rush to push this through? Is there something else going on?
13. Merge Arts and Culture and the Building Division of Public Works to Planning and Zoning. This one I don’t understand at all. Arts & Culture, Buildings and Planning and Zoning? How do those functions even begin to overlap? Put Arts and Culture with Recreation and Buildings with Public Works.
14. Merge Parks Division and Parking Department into Public Works – this makes perfect sense. Facilities and property all under one director. Good recommendation.
15. Merge Senior Services into Recreation – makes sense. Programs for recreation in one area. This is where the Arts and Culture belongs. Not in Planning and Zoning.
One recommendation I don’t see: Merge Water and Sewer under Public Works. This is a logical combination. It would consolidate vehicle service and maintenance, allow for close coordination of maintenance of streets, buildings, underground utilities and water & sewer. I would also eliminate a Director and one or more deputy positions, saving the city a significant amount in salary and benefits.
This commission first met in January of 2012 and issued the report in April. That was really fast action, but was it thorough?
I hope all council members will at least read these comments and consider the long-term implications before voting on the proposals.
And before I sign off, I have to comment on the title: “Mayor Daniel Drew’s Bi-partisan Task Force”? Isn’t that a little grandiose? In the past, it was sufficient to say “The Mayor’s Task Force”.
Chairman, Middletown Republican Town Committee