Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Scottsdale City Manager keeps his job - for another 3 months, anyway

Tuesday's meeting of the Scottsdale City Council began as most of them do, with a local group of kids (a Brownie troop this week) reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. In honor of Constitution Week, they announced that they would also recite the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution (You know, the one that starts "We the People...)

Which they did an awesome job with, except for the fact that they recited the beginning of the Declaration of Independence. (You know, the one that starts "When in the course of human events...)

Close, but... :)

That should have been the first clue that the original plan for the meeting (basically for the Council to fire City Manager John Little via a 4-3 vote) wasn't going to come off *quite* as planned, but would still be in the ballpark.

What was officially supposed to be a discussion of Little's job performance was more of a kangaroo court. It was made clear by a number of Council members that this evaluation was not about how well Little had met the goals and objectives of his job, because they had never laid out any for him to meet.

The tactics of his detractors on the Council (Borowsky, Mayor Lane, Littlefield, and Nelssen) consisted of harping on the things about Little that they didn't like (his "attitude" and conflicts with the Mayor, mostly). Council member Lisa Borowsky *did* mention that she thought Little is a good guy, before excoriating him for "not getting along" with the majority of the Council.

That was a pattern from the detractors - compliment him on his "charm" and then criticize him for his "insubordination."

There was also a tendency to allude to "other issues" without being specific (Borowsky referred to a rumor that not only was Little not "open" with the Mayor and Council, he wasn't "open" with other charter officers who were "open" with the Mayor and Council.)

That would have to refer to City Clerk Carolyn Jagger, who's pretty much the only charter officer left standing since Jim Lane took over the Mayor's job.

Tony Nelssen even accused Little of taking the City Manager's job just so he could list it on his resume.

In the end, though, it all came down to the contentious relationship between the City Manager and the Mayor.

They want to fire Little because he doesn't genuflect enthusiastically enough when the Mayor enters the room.

Nothing more tangible, or job performance-related, than that.

To be certain, Little had his supporters, too.

Council members Ecton, Klapp, and McCullagh made it clear that they thought Little has done well playing the hand he has been dealt and deserves to keep his job.

Ecton - "He has done an excellent job in a difficult time."

McCullagh - This is "not the easiest council to work with."

Klapp - "Six months is too short a period" to evaluate job performance.

Little also had strong support from the community and from rank-and-file City employees, including former Council member Robert Pettycrew and the Scottsdale Police Officers Association.

Most praised Little's honesty and "uncompromising integrity." Pettycrew, being a former member of the Council, brought some historical perspective to the mix, noting that there has been an "erosion" in the how the Council and City Staff relate to each other.

The end result of it all was a bit of a surprise - Council member Ron McCullagh moved to keep Little in his job and revisit the evaluation in six months. Nelssen said he could support a 90-day period, so McCullagh amended his motion to that time period.

Surprisingly, the amended motion passed by a 4-3 vote (Borowsky, Lane, Littlefield opposed - they want to fire Little immediately), giving Little a three-month reprieve.

So, after more than a couple of hours of contentious discussion, nothing was settled. Come back in December.

AZRepublic coverage here.

...A couple of observations on the events at the meeting.

- If Little has failed as City Manager, the most legitimate reason to fire him (and failure wasn't proven or even charged), then the Council has failed too. They hand-picked him to replace Jan Dolan and voted him in by a 7-0 vote.

- While the Mayor and members of the Council are intelligent and educated, they aren't very bright. There was some talk of Tuesday's story in the Republic about how the City has turned around a gaping budget deficit and now has a $6.6 million surplus, but they ignored the story of the investigation of the Governing Board of the Maricopa County Community College District by the national college accrediting organization. They're in trouble because of "micromanagement."

There's a lesson there for all at the meeting.

While the Scottsdale City Council doesn't have an accrediting agency to answer to, it does have voters to answer to, and will next year. It also has independent measures like the City's bond rating to help gauge the effectiveness of the City's day-to-day management, and the interference of the Mayor and City Council in the day-to-day affairs of the City does not bode well for the City's bond rating and other measures.

- Little was not the only target in Lane's sights during the meeting. Two of his supporters introduced petitions callng for the resignations of non-Lane clique Council members Klapp and McCullagh because the Scottsdale Chamber of Commerce's political activity last year.

In case anyone who was at the meeting or watching it on TV thinks that I am exaggerating and that the two petitioners were just concerned citizens, know this -

One was Mike Fernandez, who was/is treasurer of the committee "Republicans for a Bright New Day in Scottsdale", a big player behind an anti-Mary Manross and Betty Drake ad blitz last year.

The other was R. Lamar Whitmer, who was Lane's campaign manager last year.

Even though it wasn't listed on the agenda as such, last night's meeting was *all* about Jim Lane's ongoing quest to consolidate his power and marginalize or remove any potential dissenters within the City's elected and senior staff power structures.

During the meeting, former Council member Pettycrew opined that Little should be kept on because "someone has to tell the emperor that he has no clothes."

That statement is more on point than one might think a usually trite aphorism could be -

It's looking more and more like Lane has a lot of tinhorn Napoleon in him.

- Lastly, in what could be a sign of things to come during the Lane administration, they couldn't appoint an interim City Attorney because all of the potential candidates for the job have withdrawn their names from consideration. Apparently word is getting out about Lane and the Council's penchant for using the City's professional staff as pin cushions when they don't parrot the Lane party line.


1 comment:

rolomonkey said...

Jim Lane with no clothes. No thanks!